Mixed reaction to Australian Greens’ Country of Origin Reforms

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 20th May 2013

The proposal by the Australian Greens Party to make amendments to Australian Country of Origin (COO) labelling laws has been met with mixed reactions by the food industry.

The legislation from the Greens would simplify COO labelling to three claims: Product of or Grown in Australia, Manufactured in Australia, and Packaged in Australia.

Australian vegetable and potato growers’ representative body AusVeg said it is backing the Bill, which was introduced into the Senate on 16 May 2013 by Greens’ leader, Senator Christine Milne.

“The present food labelling laws are a farce and Australian vegetable and potato growers would welcome any improvements aimed at making it easier for Australian consumers to confidently choose locally grown food, something which is currently very difficult to do,” said Hugh Gurney, AusVeg Spokesperson.

“Senator Milne highlighted that consumers want to support Australian farmers. Recent research conducted has shown that 80 per cent of consumers want to purchase Australian produce to support farmers and for our nation to have a viable food industry,” Mr Gurney said.

But the proposed changes have been rejected by the Australian Made Campaign, which has highlighted several issues it sees with the Bill.

The reasons Australian Made has given are as follows:

  • The Bill creates a separate and inconsistent set of country of origin labelling requirements for some food products (products partly or fully processed in Australia) as distinct from other food products (fully imported foods) and all other categories of product. Australian Made said it believed this will increase rather than reduce confusion for consumers as well as businesses, when labelling should be simple and consistent.
  • Australian Made said it does not see the value in banning the claims ‘Australian Made’ or ‘Made in Australia’ in favour of the exactly equivalent terms ‘Australian Manufactured’ or ‘Manufactured in Australia’.
  • Australian Made said the Bill does not appear to cover packaged food that is grown (as opposed to processed) in Australia.
  • Where products cannot meet the criteria for ‘Grown in Australia’, ‘Product of Australia’ or ‘Manufactured in Australia’, the Bill proposed only one allowable claim – ‘Packaged in Australia’. Australian Made said it believed that a wider range of alternative claims should be allowable for products such as pickles processed in Australia from imported vegetables.
  •  Australian Made said it does not support the use of qualified claims such as ‘Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients’.

“On the positive side, Australian Made supports the proposal that food may be labelled in a way that highlights significant ingredients, for example, ‘Manufactured in Australia from Australian milk’ for chocolate, as long as all the requirements for a ‘Made in Australia’ claim are met,” Ian Harrison, Australian Made Chief Executive said.

“We also support – and in fact originated – the proposal to draw up regulations to clarify the concept of ‘substantial transformation’ and to specify processes which, by themselves, do not satisfy this test,” Mr Harrison added.

The Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) logo is the registered certification trade mark that labels a product as authentically made or grown in Australia.

In April 2013, Australian Food News reported that the Bill had been rejected by the Senate Committee for Rural and Regional Affairs.