Coles on top in origin battle: CHOICE

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CHOICE has analysed the country of origin claims for more than 320 packaged supermarket products from curries to crumbed fish and found 60 per cent of the products did not reveal where the ingredients were actually sourced.

The consumer advocacy group’s analysis comes following the release of the Federal Government’s new country of origin food labelling scheme, which CHOICE says failed to effectively address the lack of country specific information on food labels.

“While many consumers buy on price, our member research shows 95 per cent of consumers’ surveyed try to buy Australian foods, and the top reason given was the desire to support Aussie farmers,” said CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“Industry knows consumers have a big appetite to support Australian products and that’s why they’re so keen to get the word ‘Australian’ on their packaging,” Godfrey said.

CHOICE’s country of origin analysis also looked at a subset of 240 products – 60 different product types each with product representation from a market leading brand and an equivalent Aldi, Coles and Woolworths brand.

"Once you eliminate the ones that are simply 'packed in', 'processed in' or 'made in' Australia – claims which provide no information on the actual origin of the ingredients – the percentage of products from each brand that we could confidently say are Australian sourced was quite small: 41 per cent of Coles private label products, 39 per cent of Woolworths, 31 per cent of market leaders, and 13 per cent of Aldi products in this sample."

“Coles branded products more often had labelling that allowed us to pinpoint the source of their products ingredients, and gave a level of detail beyond the current minimum requirement. For example:

Coles Thai Green Chicken Curry, states:

Made in Australia with Australian Chicken. Rice from Thailand. Coconut milk from the Philippines or Thailand. Vegetables from Australia.

“In comparison the equivalent Woolworths Select green curry says: ‘Made in Australia using 100% Australian chicken’ and Aldi's green chicken curry states ‘Made in Australia’.

Coles Honey Ham sliced states:

Processed in Australia. Pork from EU and Canada. Honey from Australia.

"In comparison the equivalent Woolworths Select Honey Roast Leg Ham says 'Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients' and Aldi's Berg Honey Ham sliced states 'Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients'.

“Coles' labels are also in a consistent format, with country of origin labelling always appearing under the heading 'Information' so you know where to look.

“We would like to see more food manufacturers follow Coles’ lead and be more transparent about the origin of their ingredients by taking on board the option to list the main ingredients of their products.

“When the Government’s new labelling scheme comes into force, consumers wanting to buy Australian produce will need to look for the ‘Grown in Australia’ logo or the ‘Made in Australia from 100% Australian ingredients’ logo.”

“We will be looking at the same 320 products once the new labelling has been implemented to see if the scheme helps consumers know where their food is from,” Godfrey said.