Consumer watchdog Choice is calling for further simplification of the country of origin framework for food products.
While the watchdog backs the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry’s recommendation that food country of origin labelling needs to change, Choice believes that the committee needs to go further by creating a more simplified framework.
Choice director of campaigns and communications, Matt Levey says that the proposed solution to the current system runs the risk of being equally as confusing as the new framework which has a focus on percentages of the amount of local inputs versus imported ingredients.
“It’s not clear that this will be a significant improvement for already confused shoppers,” said Levey.
“Choice is calling for a simplification of country-of-origin labelling, giving consumers the information they want, getting rid of the information they don’t, and testing the revised framework to make sure it’s meaningful.
“Our research shows many consumers are passionate about where their food is grown, and where it is manufactured, but are confused about current labelling requirements. We strongly urge the Federal Government to undertake direct consumer research before making any changes to the current labelling framework,” Mr Levey says.
The Committee’s proposal for the three claims are as follows:
- ‘Grown in’ – 100 per cent content from the country specified;
- ‘Product of’ – 90 per cent content from the country specified;
- ‘Made in [country] from [country] ingredients’ – 90 per cent content from the country specified;
For products which can’t make these premium claims, the Committee recommends two qualified claims:
- ‘Made in [country] from mostly local ingredients’ – more than 50 per cent Australian content;
- ‘Made in [country] from mostly imported ingredients’ – less than 50 per cent Australian content.
Levey says that a Choice survey of 700 members found that only 12 percent were able to accurately identify the meaning of ‘Made in Australia’.
“Most consumers won’t know that ’made in Australia from mostly local ingredients‘ is any different from ’Made in Australia from Australian ingredients‘,” Levey says.
“One solution would have been to qualify the country of the characterising ingredient or ingredients. For example, a frozen vegetable mix made in Australia with some imported vegetables and Australian carrots and peas could state that it is ‘Made in Australian with Australian carrots and peas’,” Mr Levey says.