Food labelling bill reintroduced to parliament

The Greens party and Nick Xenophon have renewed focus on country-of-origin labelling by reintroducing a food labelling Bill.

Australian Made Campaign chief executive, Ian Harrison said “The current issue with imported frozen berries highlights the need for clearer country-of-origin labelling, as it appears consumers may have been confused about where they came from.”

The “frozen berry issue” refers to the recall of four products distributed by Patties Foods was triggered after people reportedly contracted Hepatitis A after eating Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berries.

Australian-Made has issued a warning to check country-of-origin labelling while Choice called on the Federal Government to take action on stricter country-of-origin labelling.

Australian Made Campaign chief executive, Ian Harrison said “While we welcome the reintroduction of this Bill, the Government is yet to announce its decisions on the food labelling enquiry undertaken last year by the House of Representatives Senate Committee on Agriculture and Industry. It would make sense to complete that review before commencing yet another one,” Harrison said.

For a number of years the Australian Made Campaign has been calling for the regulations under Australian Consumer Law to fall into line with the more stringent rules for using the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo, thereby eradicating critical loopholes that currently exist.

“The Australian Made Campaign supports – and in fact originated – the proposal to draw up regulations to clarify the concept of ‘substantial transformation’ and to specify processes which, by themselves, do not satisfy this test,” Mr Harrison said.

“The proposal to label food in such a way that highlights significant ingredients – ‘Made in Australia from Australian milk’ for chocolate, for example – as long as all requirements for a ‘Made in Australia’ claim are met, makes good sense as well.

“We still cannot however support the Bill in its current form. We do not see the value in banning the claims ‘Australian Made’ or ‘Made in Australia’ for food products in favour of the equivalent terms ‘Australian Manufactured’ or ‘Manufactured in Australia’.”

Mr Harrison said that a continual point of confusion for consumers was the use of qualified claims such as ‘Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients’. The Australian Made Campaign opposes the use of qualified claims unless the product satisfies the full ‘Made in’ test.

“Australian consumers have the right to know where their food has been made and grown, and it is important that we strengthen country-of-origin labelling for the benefit of Australia’s farmers and manufacturers as well – it is a vital asset in these trade-exposed sectors.”

Choice has criticised the current system, saying the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry missed an opportunity to simplify it.

Choice has called for the following changes:

  • ‘Product of Australia’ or “Australian produce” = significant ingredients and virtually all processing to be from the country claimed
  • ‘Manufactured in Australia’ = Relating solely to manufacturing
  • ‘Packaged in Australia’ = Relates solely to manufacturing
  • Consumer testing of any changes to ensure they are meaningful

Consumers with enquiries can call the Patties Consumer Hotline, 1800 650 069, between 7am and 9pm.