The Australian Government has proposed a new labelling system to
determine the country of origin for Australian foods. This new
system is responsive to ongoing consumer concern.
The Food Standards Code currently requires most food in
Australia to have country of origin labelling. However, research
has shown that consumers find current country of origin food
labelling confusing or unhelpful.1 For example, current
rules for country of origin claims, which are regulated by the
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, allow manufacturers
to label food containing imported ingredients as "Made in
Australia" if the ingredients have been substantially
transformed in Australia and 50% or more of the total cost
of producing or manufacturing the food (including labour and
transport) has taken place in Australia. As a result, a food item
currently labelled as "Made in Australia" may be
comprised wholly of imported ingredients.
In 2011, an independent review found the food labelling law to
be inadequate and potentially misleading for consumers, while
research by consumer advocacy group CHOICE found in 2015 that 60%
of packaged supermarket products sold in Australia failed to
identify the source of their ingredients.2
The proposed new system aims to provide clarity and consistency
for country of origin food labelling. Manufacturers and suppliers
will be required to use a certification mark comprising of the
well-known gold kangaroo in a green triangle if their product is
"Made in Australia". The mark will also include a
statement identifying whether the food was made, grown and/or
packed in Australia.
Below are some examples of what these certification marks will
Further, the proposed new system will also redefine "Made
in Australia" so that importing ingredients and merely
processing them in Australia will no longer be considered as
The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Country
of Origin Food Labelling) Bill 2015 was introduced before the
Senate on 12 February 2015 and consultation was closed on 29
January 2016.3 It is expected that the new system will
be implemented by mid-2016, with a transitional period.
Until the proposed changes to the country of origin labelling
system take effect, the requirements under the Food Standards Code
and the Australian Consumer Law continue to apply.
The distinction between the regulation of therapeutic goods and food regulation has become increasingly blurred due to the prevalence of foods and drinks on the market that claim to have health benefits and nutritional qualities.
The implementation of the US rules is of interest as it could indicate the future direction for disclosure in Australia.
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