The Australian government has said that it will look into the current system of country of origin food labelling, attempting to uncover and then clamp down on the misuse of the ‘Made in Australia’ label.
Rowan Ramsey, chair at the House of Representatives Agriculture and Industry Committee and Member of Parliament, said that the inquiry is being initiated on referrals from the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Despite an ever-increasing consumer desire to buy Australian made food and produce, there is extraordinary confusion amongst the public over the ‘Made in Australia’ claim,” said Ramsey.
“Recent data indicates widespread misinterpretation of the terms ‘Made in Australia’, ‘Product of Australia’ and ‘Made from Australian and Imported Ingredients’ apart from others.”
“Further, the Committee understands that loopholes currently allow some importers of food goods to circumvent Australia’s country of origin labelling requirements by staging imports in third countries.”
“Such a practice could impact the competitiveness of Australian food in the marketplace. The Committee is concerned by such reports and is seeking to address this issue in its inquiry,” Ramsey added.
According to a statement, the committee will look at whether the current Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) system provides enough information for Australian consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.
In addition, the inquiry will cover whether Australia’s CoOL laws are being complied with and, what, if any, are the practical limitations to compliance—apart from looking at how improvements could be made, including to simplify the current system.
While the committee will also investigate whether Australia’s CoOL laws are being circumvented by staging imports through third countries, it will also report on the impact on Australia’s international trade obligations of any proposed changes to Australia’s CoOL laws.
As per the statement, the committee will accept submissions addressing one or more of the terms of reference until May 2, 2014.