Food Labelling: display your national pride legally

Posted by Josette Dunn on 28th January 2011

As Aussie’s proudly display their national pride during Australia Day celebrations, NSW food retailers are being reminded to ensure the labels they display are not breaking the law, NSW Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan said on Wednesday.

Lamington

“Labelling imported food as Australian is up there with one of the most un-Australian things you can do,” Minister Whan said.

“You’re ripping off the consumer, you’re ripping off the farmer and you’re short changing the entire nation.

The NSW Food Authority has recently been made aware of breaches in relation to the Country of Origin labelling of unpackaged fresh produce in a small number of food retail businesses.

These have included the labelling of fresh fruit where the label states ‘Mixture of local and imported ingredients’ but investigation by the Authority revealed no local product present in the produce.

“In keeping with the Authority’s graduated enforcement policy a warning latter was issued to the offending businesses, we are continuing to monitor the situation and in the event further breaches are found these businesses risk further enforcement action,” Minister Whan said.

“The maximum penalty for this offence is $55,000 for an individual and $275,000 for a corporation which is a reflection of how seriously this Government views the matter of misleading labelling particularly when it comes to Country of Origin.

“In light of these recent findings the NSW Food Authority has issued a communiqué to NSW Councils and relevant food retailers reminding them of their obligations under the Food Standards Code and the Food Act 2003 in regards to Country of Origin labelling.

The NSW Food Authority and local councils seek to ensure that food labelling is correct and does not mislead the consumer. The Authority, in partnership with local councils, routinely investigate allegations relating to Country of Origin labelling and other labelling matters and take appropriate enforcement action.

In the past twelve months the Authority has prosecuted a number of Country of Origin labelling breaches including the largest fine ever imposed in NSW in relation to food labelling –

* Primo Pty Ltd fined $233,325 plus $200,000 costs for 63 breaches relating to imported pork labelled as Australian
* Shellharbour Square Fish Market fined more than $40,000 and $11,700 in costs for eight Country of Origin breaches of the Food Act
* KM Baron Pty Ltd fined more than $6,000 and $19,990 in costs for six breaches relating to the labelling of imported asparagus as Australian