Country of Origin Labelling changes back on the table

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 28th January 2015
Country of Origin Labelling changes back on the table
Country of Origin Labelling changes back on the table

Australian vegetable growers have said they support the Australian Greens’ Party Leader Christine Milne’s push for clearer Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) on food, claiming that the current system needs refining if consumers are “to get the information they need to support Australian farmers”.

AusVeg, which represents more than 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers, has welcomed the Greens Party’s announcement that it will re-introduce legislation mandatory CoOL on foods.

Australian Food News reported in May 2013 that the original proposal by the Australian Greens Party to make amendments to Australian Country of Origin (COO) labelling laws was met with mixed reactions by the food industry.

“Australian vegetable growers face a highly competitive domestic market where misleading labels on cheap imports can undercut their ability to compete on fair terms,” said Andrew White, AusVeg spokesperson Andrew White.

“By prohibiting confusing terms such as ‘made from local and imported ingredients’, this legislation will help to give Australian consumers the information they need to act on their proven preference to buy Australian,” Mr White said.

Greens’ new bill

Senator Milne has announced that she will re-introduce the Greens bill for mandatory labelling as soon as parliament returns.

“Australia’s farmers and food manufacturers are under pressure,” Senator Milne said. “Everyone wants to support our farmers and workers by buying local products but our current labelling is too confusing,” she said.

“Every party says it supports a simpler system, but finds every excuse, every time, to find fault with the legislation as a way of appeasing big corporations,” Senator Milne said. “It’s time the other parties were honest with Australian farmers and food manufacturers and chose them, rather than the big corporates,” she said.

Under the Greens bill:

  • ‘Product of’ or ‘grown in’ – will be used to describe food that has been wholly grown and processed in a country.
  • ‘Manufactured in’ – will replace ‘made in’ for food that has been substantially transformed in a particular country. The term ‘made in’ will no longer be used as many people think that ‘made in’ refers to where the ingredients were grown.
  • ‘Packaged in’ – will be used on food that has been highly processed but can’t claim to have either ingredients of significant processing in a particular country. Companies can still choose to highlight the source of significant ingredients if they wish.
  • All the other confusing terms such as ‘made from local and imported ingredients’ will be prohibited.
  • Companies will also be encouraged to highlight significant local ingredients to help you choose local – eg. chocolate ‘Manufactured in Australia with Australian milk’.
  • The Greens will also provide a regulation that makes it clear what kinds of food processing does not qualify as manufacturing. The Greens said this was important as manufacturing typically involved significant investment in local equipment and jobs, “which is what Australians want to reward”.

Mr White, spokesperson for AusVeg said a system which highlighted both the country of origin of ingredients and the country where they were processed “would deliver the best quality information to allow Australian consumers to make informed purchases”.

“We welcome any positive changes to Country of Origin Labelling legislation but it needs to be done properly,” Mr White said. “We are always happy to consult with any party to ensure that such reform reflects the best interests of consumers and provides a fair go for Australian vegetable growers,” he said.