Ministers reach agreement for Australia’s new Country of Origin Labels

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th April 2016

Country of OriginBy Joe Lederman, Managing Principal, FoodLgeal 

Reforms to the country of origin labelling system were agreed to at a meeting of the Australian Consumer Affairs Ministers on 31 March 2016.

The reforms are expected to be operative from 1 July 2016 with a two-year transition period for business. Current stock will be allowed to see out its use-by date.

The new labelling system required on any food product will depend on whether the product is classed as ‘priority’ or ‘non-priority’.

A non-priority food requires only a text statement of origin, but can choose to display further information.

‘Non-priority’ foods include:

  • Seasonings
  • Confectionery
  • Biscuits and snack foods
  • Bottled water
  • Soft drinks and sports drinks
  • Tea and coffee
  • Alcoholic beverages

All other food products are to be classified as ‘priority’.

All priority foods must display the new graphics and information requirements. This includes:

  • A kangaroo image in a triangle logo to indicate the food is made, produced or grown in Australia
  • A bar chart indicating the proportion of Australian ingredients with a supporting text statement.

The government has also released further explanatory materials with details of a number of scenarios and how the new system will work:

  • If a food has been exported and processed overseas without substantial transformation, then reimported, the label will be required to state, in brackets, the processing that occurred overseas – for example, Australian Macadamias (shelled in Fiji).
  • If ingredient sources vary – the label will require an average proportion of ingredients to be specified, along with a means for consumers to get further information (such as a telephone number or website). This seems to be a solution to the issues which arose around making a definitive claim as to the percentage of ingredients which have variable or seasonal supply chains.
  • Origin of specific ingredients may be included on a label – for example, an apple pie product could display an “Australian apples” logo, including the kangaroo image and bar chart.
  • Wholly imported products will be required to display an origin claim in a box (with no imagery). This can include a declaration of Australian ingredients and bar chart – e.g. Made in Vietnam from at least 50% Australian ingredients.

A new information standard will be introduced into the Australian Consumer Law, replacing current requirements under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and current Australian Consumer Law requirements.