The Green leader, Christine Milne, said this week she was willing to put the issue back on the table by reintroducing a bill once parliament reconvenes—a move Australia’s vegetable growers are strongly behind.
The Greens’ bill would replace the term “made in” with “manufactured in” to avoid consumers making the mistake of believing “made in” referred to where ingredients were grown, instead of where they were processed.
Show some support to the farmers
“Australia’s farmers and food manufacturers are under pressure. Everyone wants to support our farmers and workers by buying local products, but our current labelling is too confusing,” said Milne.
“Currently it’s simply not clear where everything comes from and there is potential for misleading and manipulative packaging.
“I’m calling on all parties and for all Australians to get behind country of origin food labelling… to support farmers and local food production. This should be a no-brainer. It’s so straightforward and is something the entire nation and parliament can get behind.”
In response, AusVeg, which represents Australian producers, welcomed the announcement.
“Australian vegetable growers face a highly competitive domestic market where misleading labels on cheap imports can undercut their ability to compete on fair terms,” said Andrew White of AusVeg.
“By prohibiting confusing terms such as ‘made from local and imported ingredients’, this legislation will help to give Australian consumers the information they need to act on their proven preference to buy Australian.”
It is no secret that Australian producers, are strongly in favour a tougher country-of-origin labelling system, not least because it would allow them to charge a premium for what the public perceive as superior produce.
Not everyone agrees
But groups like the Australian Dairy Products Federation believe the current regulations are robust and don't need to be changed.
Currently, dairy products labelled “Made in Australia” or “Product of Australia” can contain minor imported ingredients, like flavourings and cultures, that are not always available locally.
"This presents a real issue to not only dairy product manufacturers, but other manufacturers where they have to source their ingredients from various locations, depending on the season and even just basic supply," Stahle told ABC radio in October.
A recent House of Representatives committee report on country-of-origin labelling recommended changes to the current labelling system.
Among other thresholds, the committee proposed a system which would result in the term ‘made in Australia from mostly local ingredients’ used for products with more than 50% Australian content.
According to AusVeg, these proposals did not go far enough to simplify labelling, and will not set reasonable thresholds for Australian content.
“We have always campaigned for the elimination of the ‘made in’ phrase and for clearer and more obvious visual descriptors on products,” said White.
“A system which highlights both the country of origin of ingredients and the country where they were processed would deliver the best quality information to allow Australian consumers to make informed purchases,” added White.