Consumer group Choice has proposed a new country of origin labelling system, after a survey found 90 percent of respondents are unsire of where their food comes from.
Choice wants labelling to be simplified into three claims:
- ‘Product of Australia’ – a claim about where the ingredients are from and where they are processed
- ‘Manufactured in Australia’ – a claim about where the food was manufactured
- ‘Packaged in Australia’ – a basic claim to accommodate products which by law have to carry an origin declaration. Products with this label would contain ingredients from different countries.
Food policy advisor at Choice, Angela McDougall, said "When choosing food, consumers tell us that knowing [where] it comes from is an important issue – second only to information on the ingredients it contains.
"We also know that Australian consumers are finding country of origin labelling confusing with a proliferation of vague and muddy claims like ‘Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients’, which mean little," she said.
The survey uncovered the importance of clear country of origin labelling to consumers varies depending on what their purchasing. Primary produce like meat and vegetables are at the top of the list with consumers most eager to understand where it's from, followed by foods like dairy and bread. Country of origin labelling was least important for highly processing foods like soft drinks and confectionery.
There's been a growing acceptance of the fact that consumers want country of origin clarification, with South Australian restaurants and takeaway shops having to disclose whether their seafood is local or imported, following the introduction of new legislation in February this year.
Choice conducted another survey last year, releasing the results in September and concluding that one in every four grocery items now sold in Australian supermarkets is private label and of those, about one in two is imported. It also found that an overwhelming number of respondents would pay more for home-brand products that they knew were produced in Australia from local ingredients.