Country of Origin labelling garners support

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 29th May 2008

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) is calling for Country of Origin labelling to be strengthened as the Senate Inquiry into Meat Marketing in Australia continues.

Country of Origin labelling is a concept which has already been witnessed in the seafood industry but other the meat industry has not been subject to similar laws. As a result the Senate initiated an inquiry by the Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport into meat marketing in March this year. The inquiry particularly focuses on the need for effective supervision of national standards and the national harmonisation of regulations applying to the marketing of meat.

The Trade Practices Act 1974 currently does not include any mandatory requirement that products offered for sale carry a country of origin label but businesses are currently allowed to voluntarily label goods with the country of origin provided the labelling is not misleading or deceptive.

Australian Pork Limited (APL), the national representative body for pig producers, made a submission to the inquiry yesterday with the VFF supporting their opinions.

APL’s submission argued that Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) throughout the processing chain is consistent with maintaining an efficient and internationally competitive food industry, that addresses public health and safety concerns, provides consumers with information with which to make informed decisions, facilitates trade and stops misleading labelling.

VFF Pig Group President, Aeger Kingma, argues that, with record levels of overseas government-subsidised pork imports flooding into Australia, informative and honest labelling of food is a must. “The VFF Pig Group believes the Australian consumer needs to be kept informed about country of origin labelling,” Mr Kingma said. “Country of Origin labelling is not clear enough and there are too many grey areas. Australia’s labelling standards need to be strengthened.”

Mr Kingma outlined a substantial body of evidence that supported the assertion that Australian consumers were extremely concerned about where their food was produced. “Research from Roy Morgan in late 2006 clearly showed that Australian consumers want to buy Australian and that more than two thirds consciously do so whenever possible,” Mr Kingma stated. “Current labelling laws especially for ham, bacon and smallgoods products sourced from the deli cabinet are misleading consumers into thinking these products are sourced from Australia when they are not.”

“Australian consumers want this information, to be able to make an informed choice. Regulators and governments should be aware of the need for clearer labelling,” Mr Kingma added.

The findings from the inquiry are due to be reported on September 4th 2008.