Many consumers want information about where their food comes from. It is against the law for suppliers to provide you with misleading or false information about the country of origin of products.
The Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 (Standard) commenced on 1 July 2016 under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). It applies to food offered for retail sale in Australia, e.g. food sold in stores or markets, online or from a vending machine. The law does not apply to food sold in places like:
- take-away shops
- food provided by caterers.
Consumers will increasingly see more of the below labels on shelves. However, businesses have until 1 July 2018 to change their labels to comply with the standard.
Reading the labels
A label with just a bar chart and text generally means that the food either:
This claim is commonly used for fresh food.
A single ingredient food (e.g. an apple, eggs, sugar, or cashews) will be grown in a country if:
- by natural development, it materially increased in size or changed in substance in that country
- germinated or otherwise arose in, or issued in, that country
- was harvested, extracted or otherwise derived from an organism that materially increased in size or materially changed in substance, in that country by natural development.
A food with multiple ingredients could also claim to have been grown in a country if all of its significant ingredients were grown in that country and all, or almost all, processing also occurred there.
if ‘Grown in Madagascar’ appears on a packet of vanilla pods, this means the vanilla was grown in Madagascar.
if a rice and quinoa mix is labelled as ‘Australian grown’, this means that the both the rice and the quinoa were grown in Australia and practically all of the processing also occurred here.
This claim is often used for processed, as well as fresh foods.
A food can claim to have been produced in a country if each of its significant ingredients originated in that country and all, or almost all, of the manufacturing processes also occurred in that country.
a banana that is grown in Australia could also claim to have been ‘Produced in Australia’ as it originated in Australia.
if a ‘Product of Australia’ label appears on a packet of smoked salmon, this means the salmon was both caught and smoked in Australia.
if a strawberry milk drink made from real fruit, milk and sugar is labelled as a ‘Product of Australia’ this means that the strawberries, milk and sugar are Australian and the processing undertaken to make the beverage also occurred in Australia.
'Made in' claims tell you about the manufacturing process involved in making a food product. As this claim refers to the processing that has taken place, it doesn’t mean that the food contains any ingredients from that country.
As a matter of practice, if a food can claim that it was grown in or produced in a country, it can also claim to have been made there.
If the food contains imported ingredients, it can only carry a ‘made in’ label if processing in that country has resulted in a product that is fundamentally different in identity, nature or essential character from each of its imported ingredients. Processes that only change the appearance of the imported ingredient (e.g. slicing imported vegetables) will not be enough to support a claim that the food was ‘made in’ a particular country.
if ‘Made in New Zealand’ appears on a jar of jam, this means that the substantial transformation of the jam took place in New Zealand – i.e. the raw ingredients (e.g. fruit, sugar) were cooked together in New Zealand to make the jam. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual ingredients were grown, sourced or processed in New Zealand.
imported prawns that are crumbed, packed and frozen in Australia could not claim to be ‘made in Australia’. In this case the finished product (frozen crumbed prawns) is not fundamentally different in form, appearance or nature from the initial goods (the prawns).
raw pork that is turned into bacon in Australia could claim that it was ‘Made in Australia’ as bacon is fundamentally different in nature, identity and essential character from raw pork.
‘Packed in’ claims are used for foods that contain ingredients from multiple countries and can’t claim to have been grown, produced or made in a single country.
Nuts from Australia, India and Chile are mixed and packed in Australia. As the nuts are from multiple origins and the processing involved is not enough to justify a ‘made in Australia’ claim, the food can only claim to have been packed in Australia.
Some food labels contain words, or easily recognisable logos, symbols or pictures which suggest or imply a connection between the product and a particular country. While these words and symbols may refer to the origin of the food, they may also refer to other things such as the ownership of the business.
For example, a statement such as ‘Proudly Australian owned’ tells you about the ownership of the company; it doesn’t mean that the product was made in Australia or that it contains Australian ingredients.
It is illegal for a business to make a claim, by words or images, that goods were grown, produced or made in a particular country when this was not the case.