Domino’s meets request from Australian government to publish detailed country of origin information

Domino’s has met a request from Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, to better display country of origin information.

At a Country of Origin Labelling roundtable in May — which included McDonalds, Subway, KFC and Domino’s  — major fast food outlets agreed to put country of origin information on their websites and apps, said Littleproud. 

“I asked fast food stores to give their customers country of origin information, and Domino’s delivered.”

In just a few months, Domino’s was the first major fast food outlet to voluntarily display greater country of origin information on its website and app.

READ: Country of origin food labelling surveillance to commence 

Customers now have the chance to check the percentage of Domino’s products that are Australian made. 

“This gives their customers the chance to choose Australian,” said Littleproud. 

“Aussies deserve to know which products are Australian especially as so many Australians use country of origin as a gauge of food quality.

“I hope the others get a slice of the action soon,” he said. 

New country of origin labelling requirements became mandatory for most foods on the 1st of July 2018.

But, low-priority foods including highly processed confectionary and snacks, tea, coffee, alcohol and other beverages are not subject to the legislation.

The government is encouraging fast food providers to voluntarily get on board.

Country of Origin labelling – how to get it right

From 1 July 2018, Australian businesses will have to fully comply with the new Country of Origin Labelling laws. However food products that are packaged and labelled on or before 30 June 2018 can still be sold without the new labels after that date.   

Do you have a country of origin label on your food? Do you have “Made in Australia” or something similar on your packaging? Or is your food product imported?

You need to be aware that as of 1 July 2016, new laws were introduced requiring a lot more information to be included on food packaging. There is a two-year transition period before the laws become mandatory.

Why are they changing?

For as long as most of us can remember, the country of origin laws in Australia relating to food labelling were controversial. Until now, the laws have been complicated for consumers and food manufacturers alike.

Consumers have been demanding more information with an increasing desire to have clearer and more accurate information on our food.

The new laws in relation to food labelling are set to address this problem with food labels now being required to provide more detail in relation to the quantity of local and imported ingredients.

How are things going to change?

Now, under the new labelling system, businesses that are wanting to use a “Grown in”, “Product of” or “Made in” Australia claim will need to display a kangaroo with a triangle so that consumers can identify the foods’ origin at a glance and a bar chart representing the percentage of the ingredients that are from  Australia.

Therefore, although businesses will still be able to use the “Made in” claims if the bulk of production occurs in Australia, consumers will be able to know whether or not (or how much of) the ingredients are in fact from Australia.

There will also be labels for “Packed in Australia” which will feature just a bar chart indicating the percentage of Australian ingredients and ‘Product of’ for foods products, made, grown or packed outside Australia.

If the products have just been “Packed in” Australia then the labels should feature the bar chart representing the quantity of Australian ingredients, but not feature the kangaroo symbol. 

This article is of a general nature and not meant to replace tailored legal advice.

Sharon Givoni (www.sharongivoni.com.au) can assist with all aspects of commercial law.

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Bulla Dairy Foods to adopt new Country of Origin Labelling

Bulla Dairy Foods (Bulla) will adopt Australia’s new Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) changes early, including voluntarily adopting them on ice cream products.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and the Member for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson, today visited the Bulla factory to welcome the move, which will give consumers the extra level of information they are seeking around where their food was grown, made or packed, and how much was sourced from Australian farmers.

“The Coalition Government welcomes Bulla’s commitment to deliver the Government’s new CoOL reforms one year ahead of time on all their chilled dairy products, including ice cream, which is not mandatory under the changes,” Minister Joyce said.

“It is clear that Bulla is proud to be an Australian company and wants to use the labels to show consumers where their food comes from, and that the milk they use is proudly all Australian, supporting Australian dairy farmers.

“It is encouraging to see Bulla is also making a concerted effort to source more ingredients from Australian farmers, where possible, as it embraces the CoOL changes and the information it displays.

Bulla CEO, Allan Hood, said he is committed to increased labelling reform for greater transparency for all consumers.

“As one of Australia’s largest family owned dairy companies, we are proud to be leading the way to the new CoOL reforms in our category, transitioning our ‘chilled products’ to the new labelling one year ahead of the mandatory timeline,” Mr Hood said.

“In support of transparency across the dairy and wider packaged food industry, we have also voluntarily implemented these changes for our ice cream, with our flagship product, Creamy Classics Vanilla the first to transition in September 2017.

 

Plan for single Aussie label for all food exports to China

All Australian food products are set to be branded with a single country of origin label in accordance with a plan being pushed by mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.

As the SMH reports, the new branding would be designed for easy maximized identification by Chinese consumers and would be more prominent than any company or state logos.

Like the “100% Pure New Zealand” branding associated with New Zealand products, the Australian country of origin labelling would be intended to capitalize on our clean, green, safe image as well as the seemingly impossible growth of China’s middle class (which is expected to grow by 350 million people over the next four years).

According to the SMH, Forrest (pictured) who is a founder of the Australia Sino One Hundred Year Agricultural and Food Safety Partnership, will today address the National Farmers Federation Annual Congress and stress the significant benefits of the branding plan.

“Both parties know, and now acknowledge, that an opt-in unified brand – one that sells safe, clean, green Australia and one that is underpinned by the world’s best traceability technology – is indeed worth the risk,” he will say.

“We have got to cut through the confusion … states are fighting territories and other states on branding, governments compete with companies on messaging, and there are a multitude of different logos, and that might work in our local supermarkets, but it doesn’t work overseas.

“The clear value proposition of safe Australia, a clean, green Australia was, and is, being completely lost overseas.”

Woolworths commences roll out of Country of Origin labelling

From this week Woolworths customers will begin to see new Country of Origin labelling on a variety of Fresh Cut products in stores across Australia.

The move comes ahead of the mandatory deadline set by the Australian Government of July 2018, with 25 Woolworths own brand products to carry the new label by the end of next month.

The new labelling is part of the Government’s Country of Origin labelling Scheme and includes products that are 100% Australian through to products that include a percentage of Australian sourced ingredients.

“Woolworths is a long-time supporter of Australian-made and grown products with 100% of our fresh meat and 96% of fruit and vegetables sourced from Australia. We believe the new labelling reforms are great news for our customers,” said Woolworths Head of Sustainability, Adrian Cullen.

“We are working closely with our suppliers in Australia and overseas to ensure our products will carry the new Country of Origin labelling ahead of the deadline.”

Country of Origin labels will make it clearer to determine where an item has been produced, grown, made or packed, and will include the addition of an Australian Made kangaroo logo.

“We know our shoppers love to buy Australian products and this system will make it easier to find Australian made products and understand what percentage of the ingredients are from Australia,” added Adrian.

The first Woolworths own brand fresh produce to include Country of Origin labelling includes 120g and 280g Spinach and 120g Red Leaf mix.

Food sector offered help with new country of origin labelling

GS1 Australia and the Australian Made Campaign have announced their collaboration to help brand owners in the Food and Grocery sector deliver the new Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) information to consumers and retailers.

From July 1st 2016, the Australian Government is introducing new food labelling legislation. Food businesses selling food in Australian retail stores will begin using new, easy to understand food labels which will clearly show where the food is grown, produced, made or packed.

GS1 Australia and the Australian Made Campaign will support the new food labelling legislation by establishing a database of all food products made or grown in Australia and capture brand owner CoOL data on the National Product Catalogue – the smart, secure way to share product data in a single, accessible location.

Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison, said, “We welcome the collaboration with GS1 Australia as it will provide brand owners and retailers with food labelling consistency, access to country of origin information via the National Product Catalogue, and seamless integration of product country of origin information onto online shopping platforms.”

These new labels will also incorporate the iconic kangaroo in the triangle logo, an Australian content indicator and supporting text.

The new food labelling will be phased in over two years to minimise the impact on food companies of the extensive relabelling requirements. The new scheme will also help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions about the food they are buying for themselves and their family.

According to Maria Palazzolo, GS1 Australia’s Chief Executive Officer this collaboration supports the shared vision of protecting the Australian food supply chain and the safety of consumers.

“Today people want to know where their food is grown, manufactured and packaged. The new labels will alleviate growing concerns about the quality and safety of the food they eat. Capturing and leveraging the CoOL data on the National Product Catalogue using GS1 standards will also allow for better visibility of product as it moves through the value chain.”

Consultation for Country of origin food labelling to close soon

Consumers are being urged to have their say on the Government’s proposed Country of Origin Labelling reforms before the consultation period closes on 29th January.

A new reform agenda for country of origin food labelling issues were combined into the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement late last year.

According to the Minister of Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne, feedback and opinion received from consumers and businesses will ensure the reforms are based on the best information available.

“Since the consultation opened in December we have heard from food manufacturers, retailers, agricultural producers and consumers –but we welcome more feedback,” Pyne said.

In creating a clear and unambiguous country of origin labelling system, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce said he expected the reforms to hit the mark.

“We are looking to finally address an issue which has existed in the Australian food industry for a long time. That’s why it is important that everyone who is interested and has views on this is able to consider the proposals and to make a contribution,” Joyce said.

The consultation period also includes an opportunity to comment on a draft information standard that sets out the rules around food products and the proposed new labelling requirements.

Once the reforms have been finalised, a national campaign would be developed to inform Australians and businesses about changes to country of origin labelling for food.

Comprehensive user testing prior to release will ensure the tool is easy to use and effective. An accompanying style guide will outline the new labelling requirements and origin labels will be available in a range of formats to suit business needs. 

Country of Origin Labelling: it’s changing, but what is the cost?

The country of origin labelling debate has been gaining momentum for years and new Country of Origin labels will appear on shelves before the end of the year – but what will be the cost of these changes, and will they really make a difference?

Although the legislation will be introduced in the Federal Parliament in Early December, the verdict is in and the new labels have been released.

What we've got

The proposed country of origin labels will include new standard phrases and a kangaroo and bar-chart graphic. This will be supplemented by online information and smart phone apps.

The new labels will communicate two key messages:

  1. Whether the food was grown or made in Australia: this will be the first part of the phrase (E.g. Made in Australia) and the kangaroo will only be used if the food was grown or made in Australia.
  2. What percentage of the ingredients in the food/product was Australian grown: the bar chart will communicate the percentage (in bands/increments) of the ingredients that were grown in Australia, this will be the second part of the standard phrase (E.g. Made in Australia from 100% Australian ingredients)

There will also be the option to change the label seasonally, to depict the percentage of Australian ingredients in the product, or make an “at least” claim all year around, e.g. “Made in Australia from at least 20% Australian ingredients,” or use a seasonal average, e.g. “Made in Australia from seasonal produce – average 50% Australian ingredients, scan barcode for more info.”

There is no requirement to provide any further information. Companies will be encouraged to provide specific ingredient information, but it will only be on a voluntary basis. This means that while the labels will show if none of the ingredients were grown in Australia, they will not specify where they were grown, unless the company decides to display that information.

New rules have also been brought in to make it clear what “made in” means. In order to make a “made in” claim, the company must be “substantially transforming ingredients so the end product is something fundamentally different to the grown ingredients.” The claim ‘made in’ does not mean importing ingredients and just performing minor processes on them, like slicing, freezing, canning, bottling, reconstituting or packing. When the origin of the ingredients is Australian, additional claims such as ‘grown in Australia’ or ‘product of Australia’ may also be used.

New rules will also require any “packed in” statements to include a clear country of origin statement, specifying where the ingredients are from.

Above: some of the new labels.

Who cares?

In 2012, in a survey of 743 CHOICE members, 71 per cent of said it was crucial or very important to know where food comes from.

When asked about their reasons for buying Australian food, two-thirds of consumers said they feel strongly about buying Australian to keep food manufacturing jobs in Australia, while three quarters said they feel strongly about buying Australian to support Australian farmers.

It’s a seemingly simple equation; improve the country of origin labelling and Australians will buy Australian, right?

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) is not convinced.

In its submission to the Country of Origin Food Labelling Inquiry, the AFGC said while there are many surveys that indicate consumers “want” origin labelling and that they “would” buy Australian if it were more clearly labelled, actual consumer behaviour is demonstrably different.

The submission referenced a 2014 Catalyst survey of Australian grocery buyers, that found as few as one in six (and possibly only one in nine) shoppers cite country of origin or “Australian” as a top three driver of their purchasing decisions, although 61 per cent of respondents regularly check country of manufacture. For Australian consumers, key drivers of actual purchasers are price, quality, brand and habit.

All CoOL claims are not created equal

The survey also found that consumers placed roughly equal value on the importance of place of manufacture, as they did to the source of ingredients. Consumers place more importance on where the product is grown for fresh food like meat and vegetables, while the place of manufacture is important for processed products like confectionary and baked goods.

Simon Crabb, Owner of SJC Food Processing Consulting says consumers care if a product is Australian because they are either patriotic and they buy Australian to support the industry, or do so because of Australia’s high standards.

“People feel that if they’re buying something from overseas, they might not understand too much about how those products are grown or processed or packed overseas and they may rather buy Australian and spend a bit more because I believe we’ve got a better ability to keep the key factors in production right.”

While Crabb admits that not every consumer cares about CoOL, he says “more and more from what I can see, more people want to know ‘what am I eating and where did it come from and how was it produced?’ …So I think some people will certainly applaud the change.”

Who will it effect?

Australia’s pork, horticulture and seafood industries are three food commodities that are closely involved in the country of origin debate, according to the CEO of Australian Pork Limited (APL), Andrew Spencer.

“Australian agriculture is the only big commodity where we compete in Australia, in our own market with imported produce,” Spencer says.

“That basically applies to pork, where we have imported pork being used to make ham and bacon, it applies to horticulture, where we are importing some fruit and vegetables and it also applies to seafood, where we are importing fish and prawns. If you think of the rest, beef, lamb, grains and other types of commodities, there’s very little or no imports whatsoever.

“There’s a range of reasons for that. Some of it’s to do with biosecurity protocols at border…so that means you don’t get competition internally where domestic goods compete with imported goods. There’s also of course the market issues. For example, Australia’s one of the most sufficient producers of lamb in the world, so no one can really afford to start trying to compete against us in our own market,” he says.

The pork industry’s processed products, in particular, ham and bacon, are likely to feel the positive impacts of a clearer labelling system.

“Today around 70 per cent or more of all ham and bacon consumed in Australia is made from imported pork,” Spencer says.

Under the new system, the “Made in Australia” claim can no longer appear on imported pork without specifying that it is made from imported pork, a move that Spencer calls “a significant step forward.” While the new system has been criticised for leaving it up to the manufacturers to voluntarily declare the origin of a product’s main ingredient, Spencer isn’t phased.

“Actual country of origin can’t always be mandatory as this changes for many processors through the year, who swap between the US and Canada as source countries.”

Whether changes to labelling will put pressure on processors to source Australian, will all depend on consumer preference.

Not so simple

The issue with CoOL is that it must be applicable to many different commodities, and while one solution works for one industry, it may disadvantage another.

Over-regulating CoOL requirements could penalise Australian food exporters from trading on “Brand Australia” – particularly popular in Asian markets. This would be a huge disadvantage, at a time when many food manufactures have their eye on the Asian market.

Australia also has an agreement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that requires that any technical measures (such as origin labelling) not to discriminate against imported products and be based upon demonstrated need for regulation. This means that changes to CoOL must not be more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfil its objective; to inform.

Imported products will continue to be required to be labelled with a country of origin (Product of Thailand, Made in Canada etc.), and labels on foods claimed to be packed in a particular country must indicate whether they include ingredients imported into that country. Importers will also be required to make their country of origin claim in a box on the label, like Australian producers, so it can be easily found by consumers.

The US recently ran into trouble with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), after it introduced mandatory CoOL, in response to small scale beef producers who believed consumers would support local product and pay more. But, unfortunately for the producers, they didn’t. The WTO Dispute Settlement Body panel declared several aspects of the CoOL requirements to be in violation of international law as it created a cost structure that favoured domestic suppliers, without meeting a legitimate objective.

Where to from here?

The next step for the government is to work with the States and Territories, with plans to introduce the legislation to Federal Parliament in early December 2015. But the government expects the new labels will be voluntarily displayed before Christmas. Once the policy is legislated, a staggered phase-in period will come into force on the 1st of April 2016.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Industry and Science said to assist with the transition to the new labels, “there will be further consultations including industry workshops across the country as well as an online portal where companies can access information and download the labels.

“With some companies sourcing produce from all over the world and ingredients changing regularly printing different labels isn’t practical. Importantly, all imported products must clearly state their country of origin which will be printed in a box with the country of origin is defined as where a product was made or grown, such as ‘Made in Italy’ or ‘Product of Canada’.”

While businesses previously had to pay up to use the green and gold kangaroo, those who qualify for the ‘Made in’ claim will be able to use the kangaroo as part of the new label at no cost.

The maximum cost for those in the food sector manufacturers, according to the Department of Industry and Science, “is around 0.2 of a percent on a product that costs $2.50, or half a cent. This is a cost that is only incurred in cases where a company wasn’t already going to change their label between now and when it’s enforced and a lot of companies will indeed want to revamp their labelling to highlight the Australian ingredients included in the product.”

So, will it really make a difference? It’s over to the consumers.

 

Coles on top in origin battle: CHOICE

CHOICE has analysed the country of origin claims for more than 320 packaged supermarket products from curries to crumbed fish and found 60 per cent of the products did not reveal where the ingredients were actually sourced.

The consumer advocacy group’s analysis comes following the release of the Federal Government’s new country of origin food labelling scheme, which CHOICE says failed to effectively address the lack of country specific information on food labels.

“While many consumers buy on price, our member research shows 95 per cent of consumers’ surveyed try to buy Australian foods, and the top reason given was the desire to support Aussie farmers,” said CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“Industry knows consumers have a big appetite to support Australian products and that’s why they’re so keen to get the word ‘Australian’ on their packaging,” Godfrey said.

CHOICE’s country of origin analysis also looked at a subset of 240 products – 60 different product types each with product representation from a market leading brand and an equivalent Aldi, Coles and Woolworths brand.

"Once you eliminate the ones that are simply 'packed in', 'processed in' or 'made in' Australia – claims which provide no information on the actual origin of the ingredients – the percentage of products from each brand that we could confidently say are Australian sourced was quite small: 41 per cent of Coles private label products, 39 per cent of Woolworths, 31 per cent of market leaders, and 13 per cent of Aldi products in this sample."

“Coles branded products more often had labelling that allowed us to pinpoint the source of their products ingredients, and gave a level of detail beyond the current minimum requirement. For example:

Coles Thai Green Chicken Curry, states:

Made in Australia with Australian Chicken. Rice from Thailand. Coconut milk from the Philippines or Thailand. Vegetables from Australia.

“In comparison the equivalent Woolworths Select green curry says: ‘Made in Australia using 100% Australian chicken’ and Aldi's green chicken curry states ‘Made in Australia’.

Coles Honey Ham sliced states:

Processed in Australia. Pork from EU and Canada. Honey from Australia.

"In comparison the equivalent Woolworths Select Honey Roast Leg Ham says 'Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients' and Aldi's Berg Honey Ham sliced states 'Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients'.

“Coles' labels are also in a consistent format, with country of origin labelling always appearing under the heading 'Information' so you know where to look.

“We would like to see more food manufacturers follow Coles’ lead and be more transparent about the origin of their ingredients by taking on board the option to list the main ingredients of their products.

“When the Government’s new labelling scheme comes into force, consumers wanting to buy Australian produce will need to look for the ‘Grown in Australia’ logo or the ‘Made in Australia from 100% Australian ingredients’ logo.”

“We will be looking at the same 320 products once the new labelling has been implemented to see if the scheme helps consumers know where their food is from,” Godfrey said.

 

New Country of Origin labels cause controversy

While the overall consensus is that the new label designs are better than the old, not everyone is completely satisfied.

On Tuesday (21 July), the government revealed the long-awaited proposed Country of Origin Labelling designs.

As to be expected, The Australian Made Campaign is pleased with the new system, which incorporates the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo (for those products made and grown in Australia), with the addition of a bar chart showing what proportion of ingredients come from Australia.

“The new system will help consumers make informed choices based on the ‘Australianness’ of products,” Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison, said.

“A greater number of growers and manufacturers using the logo will further strengthen its impact for the benefit of both consumers and producers,” Mr Harrison said.

But Consumer advocacy group CHOICE says the new scheme will still leave many consumers wondering where their food comes from.

“Unfortunately, the new system looks less useful for consumers wanting information about any of the 195 countries that are not Australia. For example, claims such as ‘Made in Australia from more than 50% Australian ingredients’ will have you asking if your frozen berries come from China, Canada or Chile,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey

“The new system leaves it up to the manufacturers to voluntarily declare the origin of a product’s main ingredient.

“CHOICE is deeply concerned that global trade agreements might have provided an excuse to deny consumers the full picture of where their food comes from, especially at a time when agreements like the TPP are being finalised in secret.

There was concern that over-regulating CoOL requirements could penalise Australian food exporters from trading on the “brand Australia” – particularly popular in Asian markets.

Australia also has an agreement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that requires that any technical measures (such as origin labelling) not to discriminate against imported products and be based upon demonstrated need for regulation. This means, that any changes to CoOL must not be more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfil its objective; to inform.

Aussie Farmers Direct is also not entirely satisfied with the new system.

“While Aussie Farmers Direct does not believe any food or grocery line with less than 90 per cent of Aussie ingredients should be associated with the ‘Made in Australia’ label, the new labelling at least gives clarity around the percentage of local ingredients and will help customers make an informed decision, said Keith Louie, Aussie Farmers Direct CEO.                                                                                        

The proposed new ‘contents symbol’ will be mandatory for most (but not all) food products and the roll-out will commence next year – following consultation with the States and Territories – with a phased implementation period for small business.

The new labelling will apply to those food categories which consumers and the community indicated they were most interested in country of origin food labelling – this was mainly fresh produce or minimally processed foods, these include:

  • Fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts
  • Meat, poultry and seafood
  • Eggs and dairy products (eg. milk, butter, cheese)
  • Deli products and cured meats (eg. salami, ham, bacon)
  • Fruit and vegetable juices
  • Canned/dried/packaged fruit and vegetables
  • Canned/packaged and frozen ‘ready to eat’ meals (eg. tinned soup, frozen meals)
  • Baked goods (e.g bread, muffins, cakes)
  • Meal bases, dressings and sauces (eg. salad dressings, pasta and stir-fry sauce)
  • Cereals and muesli bars
  • Cooking ingredients (flour and sugar)
  • Rice, noodles and pasta
  • Jams and spreads (eg. peanut butter and honey)

Sectors making foods not included in the list may use it the new food labels voluntarily.

For more information on the new system, click here.

 

Country of origin food labelling system revealed

Today, the Government approved a new food labelling system which will show consumers where products are made, grown or packaged.

An initial voluntary take-up of the country of origin food labels will see changes appear on the shelves later this year.

The mandatory rollout will commence in 2016, providing manufacturers with time to implement the new scheme. There will be a phased implementation period for small business.

Foods processed locally will have a new label which includes the green and gold kangaroo and triangle icon, with a bar chart showing what proportion of the ingredients are from Australia.

This will include, for example, “Made in Australia from 100% Australian ingredients”, “Packed in Australia, Made in Canada” and “Made in Australia from Australian carrots and French peas.”

It will not be mandatory for companies to provide additional information on their labels – identifying the origin of key ingredients, for example.

The green and gold triangle design was the preference of more than 17,800 respondents to the Government’s food labelling community survey.

Digital options are also being developed so consumers who want more detailed information can get it.

These reforms will also clarify the definition of “made in” Australia. Importing ingredients and simply slicing them will no longer qualify for a “made in” claim.

Under the new scheme, if a product is imported into Australia and then re-packed, the label will identify where the item came from.

The Commonwealth Government will continue to work with the States and Territories, whose agreement is required to roll out the new labels.

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE says the new scheme will still leave many consumers wondering where their food comes from.

“Unfortunately, the new system looks less useful for consumers wanting information about any of the 195 countries that are not Australia. For example, claims such as ‘Made in Australia from more than 50% Australian ingredients’ will have you asking if your frozen berries come from China, Canada or Chile,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey

“Unfortunately the new system leaves it up to the manufacturers to voluntarily declare the origin of a product’s main ingredient.

“CHOICE is deeply concerned that global trade agreements might have provided an excuse to deny consumers the full picture of where their food comes from, especially at a time when agreements like the TPP are being finalised in secret.

“We urge food manufacturers to be more transparent about the origin of their ingredients and take on board the option to list the main ingredients of their products.”

Aussie Farmers Direct is also not entirely satisfied with the new system.

“While Aussie Farmers Direct does not believe any food or grocery line with less than 90 % of Aussie ingredients should be associated with the ‘Made in Australia’ label, the new labelling at least gives clarity around the percentage of local ingredients and will help customers make an informed decision, said Keith Louie, Aussie Farmers Direct CEO.

 

Country of origin survey closes tomorrow

The government’s country of origin labelling online survey for consumers closes tomorrow, 3 July.

Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash said regional and rural Australians had been raising country of origin issues with her for the entire decade she’d been in parliament.

“Country of origin labelling is an issue many rural and regional Australians are extremely passionate about,” Minister Nash said.

“Australians know our local produce is the cleanest and greenest on the planet. Our farmers grow their food to strict environmental conditions and pay good money for labour.

“I think most people believe Australians have a right to accurate, clear and concise labels on their food.

“The online country of origin labelling survey allows consumers to choose which format they think is best for the new labels, or to make their own suggestions.

“If consumers want a say in country of origin labelling, here is the opportunity.”

The survey puts forward six country of origin label designs, each which display the amount of local ingredients in different ways.

The government has completed a two month industry consultation process, and are now asking for consumer feedback.

The online survey can be found on the Department of Industry and Science website.

 

Australian Made launch campaign for the kangaroo logo

While the government is hard at work on a mandatory country-of-origin symbol, Australian Made is reminding consumers of the green kangaroo.

Last week, the Australian Government put six Country of Origin label designs to the public in an online survey.

Only one of the six designs featured the Australian Made, Australian Grown kangaroo logo.

Australian Made is campaigning to remind consumers that until the mandatory country-of-origin symbol is introduced, the Australian Made, Australian Grown kangaroo logo will remain Australia’s only registered country-of-origin certification trade mark for the full range of locally made and grown goods. 

The campaign will see the Australian Made, Australian Grown kangaroo logo with the ‘genuine Aussie’ tagline on billboards, shopping centre displays, print, radio and online advertisements all over Australia this season, to encourage consumers to turn to the logo to verify locally made and grown goods when shopping.

“We hope this campaign will help prompt consumers to look for the logo at point-of-sale,” said Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison.

“It is evident that consumers are keen to back local industry and local jobs, but importantly, they are recognising the value in locally made and grown products and produce,” Harrison said.

The Australian Made, Australian Grown logo is used by more than 2200 businesses on over 15,000 genuine Aussie products sold in Australia and around the world.

The Australian Government consulted with industry – including growers, processors and retailers for two months and has is now asking for consumer feedback.

 

Some fast food operators tight lipped on spud origins

AUSVEG says a number of Australia’s fast food chains have failed to reveal the origins of the potatoes they use for their French fries and chips.

In an investigation conducted by AUSVEG, only four of nine contacted chains provided details about where they sourced their potatoes.

Grill’d Healthy Burgers, Nando’s Australia and McDonald’s Australia provided information to Potatoes Australia, indicating that the potatoes they use for chips and French fries are Australian.

Representatives from KFC, Hungry Jacks, Lord of the Fries and Salsa’s declined to comment. While a Red Rooster representative indicated in a statement earlier this year that the chain’s fries were sourced from Australian-based companies, both Red Rooster and its sister company Oporto failed to clarify when pressed for further details about the origins of their potatoes.

“All we ask is that consumers are given clear information about the origins of their food so they can make informed decisions about what they’re buying and eating,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Dimi Kyriakou.

“Given the growing consumer demand for more clarity and frankness regarding where their food comes from, it is an opportunity for these restaurants and fast food chains to be more open about the origins of their potatoes, as a selling point to consumers.”

“While those chains which indicated they did source Australia potatoes should be commended for their efforts, surely the others would stand to benefit from promoting their use of local produce, unless of course that’s not the case.”

 

6 Country of Origin Label designs put forward in community survey

The Australian Government has opened an online Country of Origin Labelling survey as part of its national consultation process.

The online survey was opened at 8am today (9 June) and will help design the Australian Government’s new labelling system.

The Australian Government has been consulting with industry – including growers, processors and retailers – to implement a clearer, more direct system for food labelling that will give consumers the information they want in a way that is easy to read and understand.

“We have completed a two month industry consultation process, and we are now asking for consumer feedback from the very shoppers who will be in the supermarket making use of the new labels,” said Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane.

“Consumers have told us loud and clear that they want more useful food labelling, and now we want to hear from them about which options they prefer.

“Based on our consultation sessions in major capital and regional cities, we have valuable industry information on how we can implement a system that is fair and transparent for consumers without adding extra costs to business.”

Macfarlane said the community survey and the Government’s market research data are crucial in defining the new framework, and this is the next step in finding a balance for industry and the consumer.

Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said the work to improve country of origin food labelling was to make sure Australians had clear and concise information about the food they buy.

“Many consumers and food producers feel strongly about the need for clearer country of origin labelling.” Joyce said.

“It’s important that people can make informed choices about the food they buy at their local supermarket. We want Australians to have confidence in knowing where their food is coming from.

“Australians have asked for simpler food labelling and the Government has listened; now is the chance for people to have their say on simpler and more logical ways to present the information.”

Out of the six ideas for the new labelling system, only one of them features the green-and-gold kangaroo.

The Australian Made Campaign, the not-for-profit organisation that administers and promotes the kangaroo logo, is calling on consumers to 'remember the roo'.

“We have been lobbying for clarity and consistency in food labelling for years now, and worked with the Government on the current proposal,” Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison, said.

“We strongly support action on food labelling and welcome the opportunity for consumers to have their say on the best system moving forward."

 

Australian Made urges the Government to “stay on course”

The Australian Made Campaign is urging the Australian Government not to get distracted by the USA’s country-of-origin regime.

 “The Australian Made Campaign strongly supports the call by AUSVEG for the Australian Government to continue on its path towards clearer and mandatory country-of-origin labelling,” Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison, said.

“Issues relating to the USA’s country-of-origin regime should have no bearing on the Australian Government’s stated intention to provide consumers with improved country-of-origin labelling here in Australia – it should not be distracted by a largely unrelated matter.”

“The WTO’s decision relating to the system introduced in the USA was more to do with complex requirements regarding the traceability of beef products than straightforward country-of-origin legislation,” Harrison said.

The not-for-profit Australian Made Campaign administers and promotes the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo, Australia’s registered country-of-origin certification trade mark for all classes of Australian goods.

The rules for using the logo on food products are more stringent than the rules for making country-of-origin claims under Australian Consumer Law. The Australian Made Campaign has been lobbying for that gap to be closed, and an education program to be rolled out to help increase understanding of country-of-origin claims and the value proposition of buying Australian made and Australian grown products.

 

AUSVEG puts pressure on food manufacturers

AUSVEG is stepping up its pressure on food manufacturers who are resisting changes to the Country of Origin Labelling system due to the cost.

AUSVEG is stepping up its pressure on food manufacturers who have suggested that changing Australia’s Country of Origin Labelling system would place an unreasonable cost burden on businesses by forcing them to alter labels to reflect ingredient changes.

“What our research has revealed is just how easily and regularly a wide variety of companies selling food in Australia are changing the packaging of their products to promote their own interests, despite the seeming reluctance of some in the Australian food industry to support an improved Country of Origin Labelling system, which Australian consumers are so desperately crying out for,” said AUSVEG deputy CEO Andrew White.

“What this highlights are the tremendous double standards being employed by those in the Australian food industry, who have lobbied hard to try to convince Australians that implementing a stronger Country of Origin Labelling system would result in an unreasonable cost burden to business and consumers, when the reality is this is simply not the case.”

“If food manufacturers are so willing to regularly change their packaging to promote new marketing initiatives, then there is no reason they can’t do the same to reflect changes to ingredients, and the countries of origin of various commodities.”

“We note also that an earlier call by AUSVEG for food manufacturers to provide tangible proof that strengthened Country of Origin Labelling would place an unreasonable cost burden on consumers has been met with deafening silence. While this is disappointing, it is not surprising.”

In the wake of the health scare linked to the imported frozen berries from China, AUSVEG has pushed for improvements to Country of Origin Labelling, and for greater scrutiny to be applied to food imports into Australia.

“What AUSVEG would like to see is the elimination of confusing terms such as ‘made from local and imported ingredients’ from labels, and for consumers to be able to unambiguously tell at a glance, the origins of the food they are buying and consuming,” White said.

“There are laws to this effect already drafted and introduced to the Federal Parliament. Now we just need the parties to come together and vote for them, for the good of farmers and consumers.”

 

Consumers should be the judge of food labelling improvements: CHOICE

Choice has renewed its call for the Federal Government to test any proposed improvements to food labelling with consumers to ensure the changes are clear and meaningful.

The call follows the announcement that a taskforce of Ministers Joyce, Macfarlane, Nash, Billson and Robb will present a country of food origin labelling proposal to Cabinet.

“Choice applauds the government for taking action on food country of origin labelling. The simple fact is consumers want to know where their food comes from and the current labelling system is vague and confusing,” said Choice CEO Alan Kirkland.

“Importantly we are calling for any proposed improvements to be consumer tested. Labels are meant for consumers, and the best judges of what is clear and meaningful on food packaging is Australian shoppers – not politicians or food importers.”

“The last thing we need is another flawed and confusing country of origin framework that does nothing more than polish up the status quo.”

“CHOICE’s 2012 country of origin labelling survey found that the confusing terminology used is a major source of frustration with 86 percent of consumers saying it is unclear.”

“The consumer testing to develop the Federal Government’s successful health star rating scheme, launched last year, is a great approach that could be applied to country of origin labelling.” 

“We are continuing to petition the Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to fix country of origin labelling in Australia and test any new system with consumers. The petition, which was launched a week ago, has already been signed by over 23,000 people.”

CHOICE has called for the following changes to country-of-origin labelling:

  • ‘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

A CHOICE survey of 700 members found only 12 per cent were able to accurately identify the meaning of ‘Made in Australia’.

 

For safety’s sake, make food labels say what companies already know

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called on two senior ministers to prepare a cabinet submission on country-of-origin labelling laws. The move follows a national outbreak of hepatitis A linked to frozen berries from China and Chile.

The outbreak was a strong reminder that all is not well in Australia’s food supply. Once the alleged offending ingredient was identified and relevant products recalled, consumers claimed they were not aware the berries they were choosing to eat were from China.

But labelling on the berry products complied with current labelling and consumer information laws. And despite the recall highlighting the inadequacy of the labelling, the prime minister dismissed initial calls for changes. He said it would make life very hard for business, would raise the cost of food and that it was the responsibility of business “not to poison their customers”.

That changed this morning when Abbott asked Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane to submit a proposal to cabinet in March. MacFarlane has already warned consumers may have to bear the cost of the change.

Here’s one problem with this current food-labelling system: “Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients” does not actually reveal where the food comes from. A company can claim a product is made in Australia if at least half the cost of manufacturing that product is incurred here.

Consider a jar of jam: the total cost of production includes the cost of producing the lid, the jar, the label, as well as the jam. Half the cost of production could easily be attributed to the jar itself, leaving room for jam ingredients to be imported and still allowing the label to say it was made in Australia.

The 2011 report on the effectiveness of Australia’s food-labelling system described the challenges for improving transparency. It identified country-of-origin labelling as a particularly contentious issue, and recommended:

That for foods bearing some form of Australian claim, a consumer-friendly, food-specific country-of-origin labelling framework, based primarily on the ingoing weight of the ingredients and components (excluding water), be developed.

Other options

This recommendation was taken up by Greens leader Christine Milne. She introduced a bill to improve transparency of country-of-origin labelling just before the berry scare. It calls for three items on labels that cover where a product is grown, where it’s manufactured and where it is packaged.

Even before this, consumer organisation Choice launched a campaign about country-of-origin labelling in January 2012 after a survey showed 86% of respondents found such labels unclear.

Choice proposes a three-tiered system that specifies “product of” for primary produce such as fruit and vegetables, “manufactured in” and “packaged in”. This last one would cover foods with input from multiple companies, which makes it difficult to isolate single ingredients, and products such as mixed frozen vegetables where each vegetable is from a different country. Choice plans to develop exact wording through consumer testing.

Another simple and practical way to resolve the problem is to include the origin of imported ingredients in the “ingredient list”. Labelling laws mandate that ingredient lists appear on every product. Individual ingredients are listed in order of volume, from most to least.

Take peanut butter as an example. Its ingredients list says roasted peanuts, vegetable oil, sugar and salt. If labelling laws mandated the listing of country of origin for imported ingredients, the list might say roasted peanuts (China), vegetable oil (Chile), sugar (Phillipines) and salt.

Ingredients sourced locally wouldn’t need to be declared as made in Australia would the default position; only imported ingredients would need to state the country of origin.

It’s about time

Milne’s bill has attracted the ire of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the peak food, drink and grocery manufacturing body. And food manufacturers have already responded to the prime minister’s announcement. They say changing the labelling system would place an unreasonable burden on them.

But changing the wording of a label is different from adding a regime of increased testing and reporting. And although risk assessment and testing of imported foods is vital, what we now need for consumer confidence is the more cost-effective option of label change.

Food companies track the exact point of origin of each ingredient because of quality-control procedures, supported by Australia’s food laws. All consumers want is for the companies to tell them what they already know.

Changing Australia’s country-of-origin labelling system will effectively give consumers power to make informed decisions in the free market. And it will overcome the current information asymmetry, which keeps them in the dark.

 

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Media reports “misleading and wrong”: Dept of Health

The Department of Health has said media reports that suggest health authorities waited a month to act from the first case of Hepatitis is misleading and completely wrong.

In a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday the Department stated that the three people in Victoria showed signs of Hepatitis A in early January. These cases were reported to national health authorities when these cases were confirmed and a potential link was established with the consumption of Patties frozen berries.

When the link was made Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Department of Agriculture ensured there was a voluntary recall of a range of berries from Patties Foods and the Federal Department of Health immediately activated a national health response.

The Department of Health said the first isolated cases that have since been associated with the consumption of frozen berries were notified in January but a pattern of infection could only be established as subsequent cases came to light.

“As each case was notified they were investigated by state health authorities like all cases of Hepatitis A.  A key part of the investigation is collecting and analysing histories of exposure to possible sources of infection. When possible common exposures to a source of infection are identified, further detailed investigation either confirms or dismisses the possible common source. This is important as Hepatitis A infections can arise from sources other than food such as poor personal hygiene or direct contact with infected faecal matter,” Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Baggoley said in a media statement.”

“In this instance, after investigation of cases and detailed analyses of food consumption histories, the Victorian authorities confirmed a possible association with frozen berries on Thursday 12 February 2015,

“We believe the Victorian authorities have acted quickly and diligently in responding to this outbreak,” Baggoley said.

The national foodborne disease surveillance network, OzFoodnet, was advised of the association between the frozen berries and Hepatitis cases on Friday 13 February 2015, and on the same day discussion with the implicated company was initiated.

A voluntary consumer level recall of Nanna’s frozen mixed berries 1 kilogram packs was issued on Saturday 14 February 2015, with subsequent precautionary recalls of Creative Gourmet, made from Sunday 15 February 2015.

As of 11am, February 26, there are 19 confirmed cases that meet the reporting case definition:

  • 7 in QLD
  • 7 in NSW
  • 3 in Vic
  • 1 in WA
  • 1 newly notified case in ACT 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called upon Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to prepare a submission for cabinet regarding country-of-origin by the end of March.