Ministers reach agreement for Australia’s new Country of Origin Labels
By Joe Lederman, Managing Principal, FoodLgeal www.foodlegal.com.au
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:
- 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.