Food producing businesses face ‘enormous’ fines for non-compliance under new country of origin labelling laws, according to the peak body representing food producers in the region.
To be introduced on July 1, 2018, Northern Rivers Food (NRF) say the law will extend to ‘even jams and pickles that are sold at the farmer’s market.’
In response, NRF will hold a free workshop for food producers, to be held on Wednesday July 26 from 9am till 1pm at the Ramada in Ballina. It will feature Charles Fisher from Foodlegal, ‘Australia’s foremost legal advisor to the food industry.’
Country of origin labelling aims to present what percentage of Australian ingredients is contained in food and is being introduced by the federal department of industry.
Doesn’t pass the ‘fairness’ test.
While NRF say they ‘believe completely in Country of Origin labelling’, they have raised concerns, including non-identification of non-Australian ingredients and where they originate from.
‘That’s what consumers want to know,’ says chair of Northern Rivers Food, Pam Brook.
She says, ‘If you’re buying junk food, confectionery, soft drinks or chocolate, you won’t know what Australian content there is, because those producers don’t have to comply.
‘It’s not a level playing field. If you’re buying imported foods or Australian food sent overseas to be processed, made from more than one ingredient they don’t have to comply either. This doesn’t pass the “fairness” test.’
Ms Brook says the concept of country of origin labelling is ‘great, but the execution by government is really disappointing for both consumers and food producers.’
She says those who don’t comply to the new laws face penalties up to $1.1m for a corporation or $220,000 for an individual.
‘There is no certified body to approve your label, so the onus is completely on food producers to comply.’
According to www.foodlabels.industry.gov.au, Australians have for many years demanded ‘changes to origin claims on food labels.’
‘Three labels will be introduced; these three labels will have the kangaroo symbol, text and a bar chart which show the percentage of Australian ingredients.
‘Grown in Australia: For food where all of the ingredients are Australian grown.
‘Product of Australia: For all food where all of the ingredients are Australian and all major processing has been done here.
‘Made in Australia: For food where the ingredients come from Australia or overseas and major processing has been done here.
Two other labels will also be introduced:
‘Packed in Australia: Features only a bar chart which shows the percentage of Australian ingredients
All imported foods produced, made, grown or packed outside Australia must have their country of origin on the label.
The free NRF workshop for food producers will be held Wednesday July 26 from 9am till 1pm at the Ramada in Ballina. Registration is essential as numbers strictly limited; visit register.eventarc.com/38745/country-of-originlabelling-workshop for more info.
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science reply
A spokesperson for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science told Echonetdaily, ‘The new country of origin labelling rules retain the same scope as existed under the previous arrangements. As such, food products sold at farmer’s markets continue to require compliant country of origin labelling.’
‘Under the reforms, most foods grown, produced or made in Australia will be required to include the iconic kangaroo in a triangle logo and a bar chart indicating the proportion of Australian content as part of their country of origin label. This will be accompanied by a text statement stating that the product was grown, produced or made in Australia and indicating the proportion of Australian content, with the information enclosed within a clearly defined box. Examples of the new labels are attached to this email.
‘A small number of food groups are exempt from the additional requirements of the logo, bar chart, and textual indication of the proportion of Australian content. These food groups, termed non-priority foods, are those which consumers indicated they least value origin information for. These products will continue to be required to make a text statement stating where the product was grown, produced, made or packed. The non-priority foods are:
- Biscuits and snack foods
- Bottled water
- Sports drinks and soft drinks
- Alcoholic beverages
- Coffee and tea
‘All food products not included in the non-priority list are considered priority foods. The consumer research that informed the reforms, including the non-priority food list, can be found atwww.industry.gov.au/cool.
‘The reforms continue to require imported foods to state where they were grown, produced, made or packed. Additionally, imported priority foods will now be required to make this statement within a clearly defined box, making it easier for consumers to find the information. Australian priority foods sent overseas for minor processing (for example, Australian macadamias shelled and packed overseas) will be required to provide information regarding this processing as part of their country of origin statement.
‘Businesses were provided with a two year transition period following commencement of the new Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard on 1 July 2016. Extensive guidance and online resources have been made available to businesses to help them adopt the new labels before the transition period ends on 30 June 2018. From 1 July 2018, products must be labelled in accordance with the Information Standard. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, along with the state and territory fair trading authorities, will be responsible for enforcement of the new rules. While the ACCC will have a new role in terms of ensuring compliance with the Standard, they have been responsible for enforcing the Australian Consumer Law for many years now. The ACCC will take the same approach to non-compliance with the Standard as they take with non-compliance with other laws they administer.
‘CoOL education is a priority for the ACCC. The ACCC have been taking an educative approach towards businesses who have already transitioned to the new labels and inadvertently got it wrong. They have been writing to businesses to explain what they’re doing wrong and recommending they have another go to get it right. The ACCC does distinguish between an honest attempt to comply and situations where the business completely flouted or disregarded the law.’