The issue stems from the Trade Practices Act that stipulates the ‘Made in Australia’ logo can be used on products that have been “significantly changed or processed in Australia”.
So any undergoing a fundamental change in form, appearance or nature with at least 50% of production costs incurred in the country, can claim to be ‘Made in Australia’.
Stephen Gately, managing director of BuyAustralianMade told FoodNavigator-Asia that as it stands, “the reality is that the ‘Made in Australia’ claim and all its derivations can lead consumers into buying an item that contains a significant proportion of imported ingredients.”
This “has the effect of diluting the claim made by other Australian manufacturers who use local ingredients,” Gately added.
“As more generic brands appear on supermarket shelves, it will become even harder for shoppers to identify which items are made from local ingredients unless there are improvements made to the current labelling laws.”
High quality, safe and healthy produce
Gately said that the ‘Made in Australia’ label is a powerful one that represents high quality, safe and healthy produce that has been manufactured by employees on regulated wages in safe working conditions, and this image is important to maintain for both the domestic and export market.
South Australian and Queensland governments have joined forces to push for new food labelling laws to clarify the definition of ‘Made in Australia’.
John Rau, South Australian government minister for business services and consumers recently announced the government is working on a proposal and a uniform approach on this “confusing area”.
“This new approach should make it perfectly clear where raw ingredients come from, regardless of how and where they are transformed,” Rau said.
Gately said that if guidelines were to change, it would create substantial upheaval throughout the industry.
Particularly for manufacturers with no choice but to source ingredients from other countries and those using multiple ingredients in their products like frozen mixed vegetables, processed meats, breakfast cereals, canned fruits and condiments.
If manufacturers have to state where each ingredient comes from, this will have costly implications for those who source ingredients from different countries depending on the season, he continued, as “labels could quickly become out of date and require amendments.”
While there is certainly room to improve laws, Gately said that “many Australian manufacturers and farmers believe that the existing laws could be enforced more rigidly and the penalties for breaching the laws be strictly enforced.”
Calls to reform Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) have been made previously by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) in May last year in a white paper submission.
It suggested that the Made in Australia tag should come with disclaimers such as ‘made with Australian ingredients’, or ‘made with imported ingredients’ or both.