A Greens Bill which aims to change regulations surrounding Country of Origin labelling has the potential to mislead consumers and drive jobs offshore, says the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).
The Bill [The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Food-Labelling) Bill (No.2)] focuses purely on food ingredients and is being examined by a Senate Committee in Hobart this week. According to AFGC CEO Gary Dawson, it fails to provide clear information on where the value-adding process takes place on processed foods.
"The Greens' Country of Origin Labelling proposal fails its own test in protecting Australian jobs by effectively ignoring the economic value-add of the nearly 300,000 Australians employed directly in the food and grocery processing sector, including 8,000 in Tasmania," said Dawson.
"And worse, it expressly bars companies from using 'Made in Australia' on their labelling to indicate that the jobs in the manufacture of the product are here in Australia. This will not only mislead Australian consumers, but also remove any export advantage Australian food manufacturing companies have in promoting Australian premium brands particularly in Asian markets."
Dawson says that under the Bill, chocolate processed in Australia wouldn't carry 'Made in Australia' on its label because the cocoa is imported. Australian wheat shipped to China where it would be processsed and transformed into noodles, for example, before being packaging and imported into Australia could carry 'Made of Australian ingredients' on its label – "duping consumers into thinking it had been manufactured here," said Dawson.
He said the Bill threatens to penalise Australian manufacturers through increased regulatory compliance and costs.
"It would be a great irony if the implementation of Country of Origin Labelling regulations – that imposed additional costs but failed to provide consumer information on where products were manufactured – contributed to driving Australian jobs offshore," he said.
Earlier this year Choice proposed a new Country of Origin labelling system, breaking it down into three categories:
- ‘Product of Australia’ – a claim about where the ingredients are from and where they are processed
- ‘Manufactured in Australia’ – a claim about where the food was manufactured
- ‘Packaged in Australia’ – a basic claim to accommodate products which by law have to carry an origin declaration. Products with this label would contain ingredients from different countries.