Australians Asked for Feedback on Food Labelling Changes
The Australian government is seeking public opinion on new Australian Made labels that show what food is made in Australia and how much of it comes from Australian produce.
The move was spurred on by an outbreak of Hepatitis A that was linked to imported berries in February, but industry representatives say it’s been a long time coming as it will help ensure not only food safety standards, but also environmental sustainability, animal welfare and local farmers and industries.
The current system is illustrated with a green triangle and golden kangaroo, differentiated only by labels such as “Made in Australia” and “Product of Australia”. But a lack of familiarity with the variations between these labels has left many consumers confused about the country of origin for the foods included in different products.
For instance, a product can carry a “Made In Australia” label if 50% of production costs are incurred in Australia. As the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission points out, this labelling means that some products “won’t necessarily contain Australian ingredients”.
In an interview with the ABC, Gippsland dairy farmer Marian MacDonald says the current food labels are frustrating and time-consuming and were due for a change and that the hepatitis A outbreak “has generated fresh impetus for revised labelling laws”.
“One of the reasons politicians have been talking about it for a long time is that the answer isn’t as simple as it seems, especially when you consider packaging as well as ingredients,” she explains.
MacDonald, and many other industry representatives have suggested labels that show how much of a product is sourced locally – and the government has shortlisted six designs that do just that.
Consumers are now being asked for input on the designs, with the government inviting people to fill out a survey between 9th June and 3rd July 2015.
The Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce says he’s received over 26,000 emails and “about 150 personally written letters” calling for the changes that are now underway.
“Australian consumers have made it clear they want unambiguous and more consistent country of origin food labelling, so they can make more informed choices about the food they buy,” he says in a statement
“The Government is taking action on this issue now and will steadily work through the complex implementation process.”
Following the consultation period, Joyce says there will be a period of phasing in the chosen labels “to ensure Australian producers have time to adjust to new labelling requirements.”