Businesses caught short by new food labelling laws

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Time is running out for businesses unprepared for strict new food labelling laws, with an industry expert warning many are at risk of being slapped with fines of more than $1 million for non-compliance.

New country of origin labelling laws are due to come into force from July 1 next year, requiring food manufacturers and importers to clearly identify where products are produced, grown, made or packed.

Design execution services company Task by Kirk has been working with large and small businesses to prepare them for the change, but warns that many businesses are unlikely to meet the deadline to comply with the new Australian Consumer Law act.

“I would estimate that only half of the required changes across product brands have been completed or are in the process of being completed,” Task by Kirk General Manager John Kapiniaris said.

“It’s the small-to-medium-sized businesses that are falling behind because they either don’t have the resources available or don’t have a proper understanding of the requirements under the new laws.

“Any recall or disposal of non-compliant goods may run from the thousands to the millions of dollars, so it’s important to get it right,”  Kapiniaris said.

Task by Kirk has been working with major manufacturers such as Simplot, Riviana, and Cerebos to relabel products, and is preparing for a flood of businesses rushing to comply with the new laws as next year’s deadline approaches.

“The changes aren’t really that complex and we have been able to step businesses through the necessary changes,” Mr Kapiniaris said. “The fact that we provide a design-to-print process saves clients money – up to 40 per cent in some cases – but just as importantly in the world of fast moving consumer goods, we help get products to shelf in half the time.”

Simplot Australia creative services manager Paul Fenech said the new country of origin labelling laws presented a huge undertaking for manufacturers and importers.

Simplot engaged Task by Kirk to relabel hundreds of products across its 14 household brands, including Leggo’s, Birds Eye, John West and Edgell.

“The costs of putting everything back to design agencies and getting it to press was just too expensive and time consuming for us, so we looked for ways we could cut out steps and minimise costs,”  Fenech said.

“Task by Kirk has really been driving it to get it done in time for next July. If companies haven’t started now and they have hundreds of products, they are really going to struggle,” he said.

“If you lose food product off the shelf, it is so hard to get it back on there, so it’s not just costly fines or dumping non lawful product, the real cost for companies can be forfeited future earnings.”

From next July, food made, grown or produced in Australia will feature the image of a kangaroo in a triangle and a bar chart that shows the proportion of Australian ingredients. Food packed in Australia will show the proportion of Australian ingredients, and labels on food imported into Australia will be easier to find.

Corporations who fail to comply with the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 face penalties of up to $1.1 million, while individuals can be fined up to $220,000.