On July 18, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) called for submissions on the proposal, published on its website, to have country of origin labelling extended to unpackaged beef, sheep and chicken meat.
In Australia, all packaged foods currently require country of origin labelling. However, some unpackaged foods like pork, fish, fruit and vegetables also require country of origin labelling, according to the FSANZ.
According to FSANZ CEO Steve McCutcheon, the Australian Government had asked the regulator to remove an inconsistency in labelling requirements for unpackaged meat.
“The change [in rules for beef imports in 2010] caused concern among consumers about identifying the origin of unpackaged beef and led to the request from the government to FSANZ,” said McCutcheon.
Under the published proposal, the regulator has said that their research shows that that many Australian consumers prefer Australian meat. The proposed regulation applies to Australia but not New Zealand.
It said that in case there is an increase in the availability of non-Australian meat for sale, mandatory country of origin labelling would provide sufficient information to enable consumers to differentiate between their preferred and less preferred meat products.
The proposal said that major supermarket retailers are also supportive of a mandatory regulatory measure in this regard.
“Information received to date indicates costs relating to the change in labelling of unpackaged beef, sheep and chicken meat are unlikely to be substantial, with some major retailers already labelling products voluntarily,” said McCutcheon.
According to the regulator, a recommendation would go to the FSANZ Board in late 2011 after an assessment of submissions from consumers and the food industry is made. The period for submissions closes on August 29, 2011.