14 Apr 2016
Food products: new Country of Origin requirements announced
by Sara Dennis
Labelling laws for a large range of foods will change soon.
On 31 March 2016, Australian consumer affairs ministers agreed to replace existing mandatory Country-of-Origin (COO) food labelling requirements. This followed a period of market research in June 2015 which included 18 focus groups and over 1200 surveys. While considerable work needs to be done, the Government is working towards a commencement date of 1 July 2016. Business will then have two years to transition to the new arrangements and current stock in trade will also be allowed to see out its use-by-date.
New graphics and information requirements for priority foods
The proposed system will involve COO labelling for food for retail sale being regulated through a new mandatory Information Standard under the Australian Consumer Law. This Standard will impose additional graphics and information requirements for priority foods (which are all foods except "non-priority foods" which include seasonings, confectionery, biscuits and snack food, bottled water, soft drinks, sports drinks, tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages).
Non-priority foods only require a text statement of origin on their labels because the research revealed that consumers of such foods are focused on obtaining fast and easy food and are unconcerned with carefully reading labelling information.
The proposed requirements are detailed below. Please note: labels are not required to be green and gold; and exceptions to the requirements below will be made for small packages.
What can you expect to see in coming months?
The Government has publicly stated that work has already commenced to revoke the COO labelling provisions under the Food Standards Code. In coming months it intends to finalise an online tool, a Style Guide (which details the specifications for standard labels) and other resources to assist business to determine which labels to use, and to download label artwork; and to roll out a national information campaign for consumers and business.
What should you do?
The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science's website will be updated in coming weeks regarding the proposed changes so be sure to regularly monitor it.