Australian Pork Limited (APL) has presented evidence at the inquiry into country of origin food labelling, saying labelling laws are unfair and confusing to consumers.
APL said the labelling laws make it impossible for consumers to choose local ham and bacon, ABC Rural reports.
APL chief executive Andrew Spencer said the pork industry wants the 'substantial transformation' definition, which allows imported products to be labelled as Australian as long as they are 'substantially transformed' in Australia, to be reviewed.
"The Australian Made/Australian Grown logo code of practice, for example, does not allow the use of the 'Australian Made' logo on imported bacon or ham, due to consumer confusion over its meaning, and we believe that regulated claims need to be similarly changed," Spencer told the hearing.
Spencer said the Australian pork industry is a world leader on initiatives regarding animal welfare and environmental management, product safety and biosecurity, but labelling laws mean they're not able to capitalise on consumer demand for those production processes.
"Today's country of origin labelling laws make consumer-informed choice almost impossible, which helps perpetuate 70 percent of Australia's ham and bacon consumption being made from imported pork, a fact of which most consumers remain unaware," Spencer said.
But the manager of the Industry Department's trade facilitation section, Lyndall Milward-Bason, told the hearing that the labels themselves are not misleading.
"When the consumer agencies did a campaign in 2012-13 as to whether or not there was any systemic falsification of origin claims, or misleading claims, they did find minimal evidence of any falsification," she said.
"If someone could come up with a formula that would do better [that would be considered]. We've had some suggestions come through the Senate, and they've had some fundamental flaws in those proposals.
"That's why the processes we're going through aren't about changing regulation, or new regulation, or additional regulation, it's about education of the consumers through new guidance material and, if necessary, an education campaign."
Milward-Bason said a lot of complaints that come through the minister’s office are people thinking that if a label says a product is Australian, it should be 100 percent Australian, otherwise they’ve been misled.
"So that's an expectation, and from an industry point of view, that's just not possible. There are many foods produced in this country that are not 100 percent Australian," she said.
"If you made a regulation that said you could only say 'Australian' if it was 100 percent Australian, you'd probably wipe out most of the food processors in this country."
The Australian-Made campaign gave evidence at the inquiry yesterday (8 May).
The campaign's chief executive Ian Harrison, together with compliance and policy manager Lisa Crowe, made recommendations to the committee on how food labelling laws could be improved to support Australian growers and manufacturers.
Harrison and Crowe stated that an effective country-of-origin labelling system that is both understood and trusted by consumers will help combat companies that are “attempting to mislead consumers regarding their products’ true country-of-origin.”