Here’s the need-to-know on country of origin labelling

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd July 2018

AUSTRALIAN consumers will from today have much greater certainty about the origins of the food they buy as the mandatory compliance period of Country of Origin food labelling begins.

All businesses–including manufacturers, processors and importers that offer food for retail sale in Australia–now must comply with the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard, which specifies how claims can be made about the origin of food products.

The new requirements will apply to most food offered for retail sale in Australia, including food sold in stores or markets, online or from a vending machine. It does however exclude food sold in restaurants, cafes, take-away shops or schools.

Labels must show where food is grown, produced, made or packed

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will conduct market surveillance checks on 10,000 food products to ensure businesses are correctly displaying the new labels. The ACCC, along with state and territory fair trading agencies, will be responsible for enforcing the standard.

ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh says the new labels will show where food is grown, produced, made or packed.

“We’ve been providing guidance for businesses over the past two years about the new food labelling system, including how to apply and interpret the standard,” Mr Keogh said.

“We are now entering the compliance phase, where we are making sure businesses are presenting accurate information about country of origin to their customers.” The ACCC’s market surveillance aims to identify businesses that may not be complying with the food labelling laws. “We have people on the ground to carry out these inspections and will initially focus on fresh or short shelf products sold by supermarkets, both large and small,” Mr Keogh says.

“We will raise concerns with businesses where we believe there is an issue with country of origin labelling.

“As always, we are able to escalate cases which warrant stronger action.

“Some consumers are willing to pay extra for products grown, produced or made in Australia, and producers and importers should be aware that any claim which is likely to mislead consumers will also be a breach of the law.

“We just want to ensure that consumers can make informed choices and businesses have a level playing field to compete fairly in relation to these claims.” The ACCC has a number of materials available to assist businesses and consumers:

Country of origin food labelling guidance (guide)

How to display the standard marks (visual guide)

Country of origin food labels in store sign (sign)

Country of origin representations: making a ‘made in’ claim (video)

Guidance for consumers on country of origin claims (web guidance)