Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has called for a country of origin framework that is unambiguous and compulsory.
According to Perth Now, Joyce promised to introduce a new, simpler labelling system for consumers, which would clearly state the country where the produce was grown, although there would be no bans on imported frozen products.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Minister Joyce has spoken to the Prime Minister about making changes to Country of Origin Labelling and will be presenting a White Paper with proposed changes soon.
“This is a good first step and we look forward to seeing solutions in the upcoming White Paper." said CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey. "We now hope that any proposed country of origin system is more meaningful and clear for consumers,”
Following the recall of frozen berries last week, Patties has increased its sample testing to 100 percent of all batches of imported frozen berries from all countries, not just China, for any microbial and viral markers such as HAV.
There is now 18 cases of hepatitis A linked to the recalled berries, but Patties said there is still no detailed viral analysis from accredited laboratories that proves any firm association of Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) with the recalled products.
CHOICE called on the Government to take action on country of origin labelling, launching a petition that resulted in over 17,000 petition signatures in just three days.
"This morning we released a new report showing almost half of the 55 frozen fruit and vegetable products we surveyed carried unclear or confusing origin statements."
CHOICE investigated the country of origin labelling on 55 packs of frozen mixed fruits and mixed vegetables and results show that 25 out of 55 products contain vague and unhelpful claims.
Some of the worst claims include "Packed in New Zealand", "Packed in Chile from imported and local ingredients" and "Processed in Belgium".
“These claims offer very little information about a product’s origin and are largely meaningless to consumers,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.
Australia has recently experienced a growth in food imports. The value of frozen vegetable imports in 2013-14 moved up 12% to $256 million, and China – one of the countries associated with the latest food safety scare – remains our third largest source in this category.