Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
(ACCC) takes an active interest in food labelling,
and particularly those labels which make claims about a food's
origin. These claims are now starting to be called 'credence
claims' (an expression that is yet to appear in any law
report). Another trend is to refer to this topic as 'truth in
labelling', a concept that extends to issues such as health and
The idea is that food labels that make a fuss about where the
contents originated from only do so to increase market appeal.
Olive oil from Spain has more attraction than olive oil from, say,
Mexico even though both nations produce the product.
Given that there is a commercial benefit in origin labelling,
the ACCC's antennae often twitch excitedly when origin claims
seem questionable: why should some producers obtain a benefit
through incorrect labelling? Recent news has focused on the Maggie
Beer range of food products, and the ACCC's concern that some
of these labels may have caused some consumers, at least
'potentially', to think that the product's contents
originated in the almost mythic Barossa Valley, as opposed to say
plain old Victoria or Queensland.
Here is an overview of some basic labelling principles,
continually urged upon producers by the ACCC:
To say that a food product is a 'product of country X'
or 'grown in country X' means that it was wholly produced
in that country (or indeed a specific place within a country, like
wine from Coonawarra). This includes when multiple stages are
involved to bring a product to market, such as cheese. In theory,
the milk could be from one country, and the cheese production
competed in another.
The claim that a product is 'made in country X', means
that it was produced in that country, not merely packed there.
Further, there are also guidelines concerning percentages of the
costs of production that must be incurred in the named nation. The
actual produce may not be wholly from the country in which the
product was made, hence you often see 'made in X from local and
Corporate ownership claims are not origin claims and depending
on their prominence, and role in marketing, the possibility of
misleading conduct could arise. From the news reports concerning
the Maggie Beer food range, it seems that the ACCC may have been
concerned with prominent labelling that stated the company was
based in the Barossa Valley, even if the particular products under
the ACCC's scrutiny were not grown there.
Equally, logos are potentially capable of being misleading. For
instance, a prominent kangaroo or iconic Australian image could
potentially cause confusion if the contents were not made in
As with anything, the idea is to adopt a commonsense approach.
Both the ACCC and Food Standards Australia have published helpful
guides to assist with this approach.
This publication does not deal with every important topic or
change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute
for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's
specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of
interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice
relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named
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