The Federal Government has begun industry consultation and in-depth consumer research in a concerted effort to deliver clearer and more consistent country of origin labelling for food sold in Australia.
In a joint statement, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the Government wanted country of origin labelling that gives consumers the information they need without imposing excessive costs on industry.
The Ministers met with key food industry stakeholders in Sydney last week to discuss the next steps in introducing an improved food labelling system.
“During April and May we will consult closely with food manufacturers, retailers, agricultural producers and consumers and conduct national in-depth consumer research,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“We will also consult extensively with State and Territory Governments, whose co-operation will be essential to implement changes in a timely and cost-effective way.
“Part of our discussions will be about ways technology could be used to provide even more information to consumers about the food they buy without cluttering up labels – including apps shoppers can download onto their mobile phones and other devices.
“The bottom line is to give consumers the information they are calling out for, without imposing excessive costs on industry.”
The review follows an outbreak of Hepatitis A earlier this year after consumers ate frozen mixed berries grown and packed in China. During the same month at least four people reported food poisoning after eating a contaminated batch of imported tinned tuna.
"Australian consumers have made it clear they want unambiguous and more consistent country of origin food labeling, so they can make more informed choices about the food they buy,” Mr Joyce said.
“We hear clearly that consumers want more information about where their food has been grown and processed. I’ve received in the order of 26,000 emails and about 150 personally written letters asking us to make improvements to country of origin labeling.
"Current labelling in many instances is misleading and people have a right not to be misled about the origins of the food they buy.
“Simple, diagrammatic information on a package will allow people to tell at a glance what proportion of the food in a package comes from Australia – and it must be compulsory.”
A working group of Ministers representing sectors including industry, agriculture, small business, health and trade will develop the Government’s position on improvements that do not impose excessive costs on industry.
Consultations will include a series of roadshows for businesses and consumers in both metropolitan and regional centres and consumer market research.
More information on the consultation and consumer research is available at: www.industry.gov.au/cool.