Xenophon campaigning for stricter food labelling laws

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 14th July 2009

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon is calling for changes to food labelling laws, bemoaning the current laws as a “sad joke”.

“Right now, you can label a fruit juice as ‘made in Australia’ even if half the juice comes from overseas – as long as the box and label are locally made,” Senator Xenophon said in a statement. “Our current labelling laws make it so hard for consumers to find real Australian products, it’s virtually impossible to be sure you are actually buying Australian.”

Senator Xenophon said that the current laws were forcing some Australian producers out of the marketplace.

“That (law) can’t be tenable, that’s not fair and it is actually driving people off the land.”

The Independent Senator is set to introduce a private members bill to parliament in a bid to alter made in Australia labelling legislation and tackle the possible misuse of words like “fresh” and “daily” on labels.

Lydia Buchtmann, from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), has dismissed the need for a change to current laws.

“We do surveys from time to time and people do struggle a little bit with food labelling,” she told ABC. “But generally the country of origin is quite simple. If it says ‘Product of Australia’, it means just that.”

“‘Made in Australia’ means that there’s been more than 50 per cent added by value, to put it simplistically.”

Country of origin labels for packaged food

The Federal Government outlined plans to introduce a “Grown in Australia” label for packaged food in February, although progress had stalled due to the number of people involved in the process, Agriculture Minister Tony Burke advised.

“In terms of the labelling issue, I’ll say at the start that I think all of these processes on labelling move way too slowly. There’s so many ministers involved, so many different levels of government involved,” he said at the time. “The principle that I want to get to is really simple. We want to look at having a ‘Grown in Australia’ label. You can have something that says Made in Australia but actually was grown somewhere else.”

AMAG supports Xenophon push

Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison, said today that the Campaign would welcome any moves by the government to tighten provisions of the Trade Practices Act relating to country of origin claims, particularly for food products.

“We know that this has been on the government’s agenda since before the last federal election,” he commented, “and we would support any move to give the consumer more information about the origins of the food they are eating.”

“Unfortunately, due to the shrinking of Australia’s manufacturing base, very few products these days can claim to be 100% made in Australia,” Mr Harrison added. “It is unrealistic to expect all products made here to meet that standard.”