Changes likely for Australian food labelling laws

Posted on 3 Mar 2015 by The Manufacturer

The Australian government is considering changes to food labelling laws following cases of hepatitis A being contracted from Chinese packaged frozen berries.

On February 26 a government working group was formed to consider possible changes to food labelling laws.

Such laws would make it easier for consumers to identify Australian-grown and Australian-processed foods.

The food labelling working group comprises Minister for Industry and Science Ian MacFarlane, Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, the Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson and Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash.

The group will work with the food and agricultural industries, and with State and Territory governments, to make sure that any changes are economically feasible.

“I want a submission to Cabinet by the end of March because we have to get on,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

“The people of Australia want better Country of Origin Labelling.”

The catalyst for the formation of the working group was the recent importation of berries contaminated with hepatitis A.

At least nine people around Australia were infected with hepatitis A after eating Nanna’s mixed berries.

A further product – Creative Gourmet mixed berries in 300 gram and 500 gram packets – was also recalled due to the contents being washed and packaged in the same Chinese factory as that of Nanna’s mixed berries.

Australian consumer watchdog Choice has called for clearer food labelling of frozen fruit and vegetables.

“After checking the labels of 55 [frozen fruit and vegetable] products, we’ve concluded that consumers who want transparency and control over the food they’re eating will have a lot of trouble knowing where their food comes from,” Choice says.
The organisation says the words, “made in Australia” do not guarantee that 100 per cent of the product comes from or was processed in Australia.

Choice also says that words stating where a product was made – for example, “Made In China” – do not tell the consumer where the ingredients were grown or sourced.

Choice also says the words, “from local and imported ingredients” do not tell the consumer which countries the ingredients were grown or sourced.

“Our research shows many consumers are passionate about knowing where their food is grown and where it is manufactured, but are confused about current labelling requirements,” Choice says.

“It’s clear that now, more than ever, there’s a need to improve [Country of Origin Labelling] and end this confusion.”

Matthew Buckley