AFGC concerned by detail in “Made in Australia” Bill

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 21st August 2009

A Bill introduced to the Senate yesterday by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon to alter Australia’s food labelling laws could make it harder for Australian Made products to compete, according to the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).

The proposed legislation seeks to change laws to only allow the word “Australian” to be used on products if they are 100 per cent produced in Australia. Senator Xenophon has previously labelled 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, upon first announcing the proposal. “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.”

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell contends, however, that making it illegal for products made with some foreign produce to be labelled “Australian Made” is overly simplistic.

“Extending this requirement to 100 per cent of products makes no sense and will mean that virtually no food manufactured in Australia will be able to use the term “Australian Made” due to the use of small amounts of imported additives, flavours or colours,” she advised. “Senator Xenophon’s proposed Bill demonstrates a populist and short-sighted approach to food labelling – the labelling proposal is also at odds with Australia’s food standards.”

Ms Carnell suggested Senator Xenophon failed to understand that Australia’s food and grocery manufacturing industry is highly complex, with raw materials and additives (such as colourings, preservatives and flavourings) often only available from overseas sources.

For example, Australian ice-cream manufacturers using local dairy produce source chocolate and vanilla from overseas as flavourings. Currently, the resulting chocolate ice-cream is still considered “Australian Made”.

“I am sure that all Tasmanians believe that the chocolate coming from the Cadbury’s factory in Hobart is “Australian Made” even though the cocoa is not grown in Australia,” Ms Carnell said.

The AFGC maintains that strict standards governing country of origin labelling are already in place under the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code and Trade Practices Act.

“Calling for more stringent labelling regulation is short-sighted and unnecessary as it could make it harder for Australian Made products to compete,” Ms Carnell concluded.