Australia's getting new country of origin food labels - here's what they look like

Australian produce supporter Dick Smith. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Australia is getting a new simpler system of food labelling so consumers can recognise where the things they eat come from.

Under the new labelling system, backed by state and territory governments at a meeting in Canberra today, food grown, produced or made in Australia will carry a mandatory kangaroo logo along with a bar chart indicating how much of the product contains Australian ingredients, plus a written percentage, based on the weight of the ingredients used.

An accompanying explanatory statement will indicating the food was grown, produced and/or made in Australia.

Detailing the country of origin of specific ingredients, whether from Australia or overseas is voluntary under the new laws, and thus do not have to be disclosed.

Imported food and food packed in Australia will also have new labels.

The change will be introduced from 1 July and the labels expected to appear in retail outlets later this year.

The changes to country of origin labelling requirements will also see authority for policing the laws shift from the Food Standards Code to Australian Consumer Law and the consumer watchdog, the ACCC, will get an extra $4.2 million in funding over the next five years for enforcement.

Industry, innovation and science minister Christopher Pyne said the new labels were a long-awaited breakthrough.

“The new food labelling system will provide Australian consumers with the clarity they deserve, without imposing an overly onerous burden on businesses,” he said.

Here’s a sample of what the new labels will look like:

The changes, first unveiled by the federal government eight months ago, were welcomed by vegetable industry body AUSVEG, with CEO Richard Mulcahy saying it was a positive outcome after many years of campaigning for effective reforms, but more changes were needed.

“This will undoubtedly open the door for a country of origin labelling system that operates on a unified, federal platform that is enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which will make for stronger regulation of Australia’s food labelling systems,” he said.

“Although the proposed system does not offer a complete solution to these issues, AUSVEG recognises that it is an encouraging step forward to provide consumers with more transparent, informative labelling on the foods they buy.”

Consumer advocacy group Choice said the new scheme was “a major improvement” and will help clarify when food was Australian and just how much.

But spokesperson Tom Godfrey said it was less helpful when it came to identifying where foreign ingredients came from.

“For example, claims such as ‘Made in Australia from imported ingredients’ will still have you wondering where your food comes from,” he said.

“We urge food manufacturers to be more transparent about the origin of their ingredients and take on board the option to list the main ingredients of their products.”

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