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In response to last year’s frozen berries Hepatitis A scare, the Australian Government promised a new country of origin food labelling system. The Government has fulfilled its commitment and the proposed changes are ready to implement. In Australia, it is a mandatory requirement that packaged food products indicate their source. However, consumers have reported that the current system is confusing and unhelpful. Research showed that consumers wanted a simpler and more transparent system which will assist them in making better decisions about the food they buy.

When is the New System Being Implemented?

The new system will be carried out on 1 July 2016 and will have a two-year transition period. This means that food manufacturers would be able to sell current stock in trade without the new labels until June 2018.

How Does the New System Work?

The new country of origin food labelling system applies to all retail food and drink products sold in Australia. They do not apply to food served in restaurants, cafes and takeaway outlets.

The new system aims to indicate whether food is grown, made or packaged in Australia clearly and will provide consumers with two kinds of information. First, it will identify whether the food was grown, produced or made in Australia. The new system will also indicate the percentage of the ingredients in the food from Australia.

The new labels will look like these:

Country of Origin LabelsImportant Terms to Remember

The following terminology would be used and remembered:

  • Food products labelled with “grown in Australia” or “produced in Australia”, indicate that the ingredients in the food are from Australia and most of the processing that happened to the food occurred in Australia.
  • Food products labelled with “made in Australia” mean that the food was last substantially transformed in Australia. Substantial transformation happens when fresh ingredients are combined and processed to create a fundamentally different food product. For example, eggs, flour and butter are substantially transformed when baked to create cookies.
  • Food labelled with “packed in Australia” will indicate the country where the food originates. If the food has been exported and reimported back into Australia without substantial information, the label will have to state, in brackets, the kind of processing that happened to the food overseas.

What Happens if Food Manufacturers Fail to Follow Food-Labelling Requirements?

In Australia, failing to observe correct and accurate food labelling requirements may be considered a breach of the Australian Consumer Law. In particular, incorrectly labelling imported products as made in Australia may amount to misleading and deceptive conduct.

Good News for Consumers and Australian Food Manufacturers

The new system is not only a win for Australian consumers, but also for Australian food manufacturers. The consumers win because the new system is easier to understand and more consistent. Consumers can rely on the new country of origin labelling requirement when making decisions when shopping.

On the other hand, Australian food manufacturers can use the new labels as a strong selling point. This is because research indicates that food produced in or made in Australia are perceived to be of better quality than cheaper, imported products. It also shows that under certain circumstances, consumers may be willing to pay extra for Australian food for various reasons including quality and to support Australian industries.  

Key Takeaways

In short, the Australian Government will implement a new country of origin labelling system on 1 July 2016 and will have a two-year transition period. It will provide consumers with labels that identify where the food was processed and the source of the ingredients in the food. Country of origin food labelling requirements will benefit not only Australian consumers but also Australian food manufacturers.

If you have any questions about complying with the new country of origin labelling system, get in touch with our commercial lawyers on 1300 544 755.

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