Australian pork industry optimistic about proposed changes to COOL

By Georgi Gyton

- Last updated on GMT

Australian Pork claims there is a lack of clarity around the use of brine in the production of bacon and ham products
Australian Pork claims there is a lack of clarity around the use of brine in the production of bacon and ham products

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The Australian government is to begin consulting on moves to introduce improved country-of-origin labelling (COOL), to cater for consumer demand for more consistency and clarity when it comes to the food they buy.

Australian Pork Limited told GlobalMeatNews​ that the current system had been "a vexed policy issue in Australia for many years"​, and that it supported the proposed changes.

"The current system is dysfunctional for the pork industry. While the ‘Grown in Australia’ claim has been clear, Australian-produced pork that has been processed (hams, bacon) has been disadvantaged when compared to imported pork,"​ explained a spokesperson for Australian Pork.

A lack of clarity around the use of small amounts of brine, to make hams and bacon products, has meant that "processors of Australian-grown pork have elected to use the ‘Made in Australia’ claim, rather than ‘Product of Australia’, meaning that it competes with imported product also able to be labelled ‘Made in Australia’, due to the significant transformation (processing) component".

Australian Pork claims that some overlaps with the ‘Made in Australia’ claim between imported and domestic processed pork products, have resulted in consumer-informed choice not being fully supported.

The government’s proposals are to amend the ‘Made in Australia’ claim in order to separate the ingredient source from the location where the value is added. "This proposed approach will resolve the pork industry’s long-standing concerns about COOL in Australia,"​ said the spokesperson.

According to Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture, and Ian Macfarlane, Minister for Industry, the government would want any changes to labelling policy to give consumers the information they needed without businesses being burdened with extra costs. They met with key food industry stakeholders at a round table last week, in order to discuss the next steps.

Macfarlane said: "During April and May we will consult closely with food manufacturers, retailers, agricultural producers and consumers and conduct national in-depth consumer research.

"Part of our discussions will be about ways technology could be used to provide even more information to consumers about the food they buy without cluttering up labels – including apps shoppers can download onto their mobile phones and other devices."

Australian Pork has said that while the proposed changes were a significant step in the right direction, there will be some implementation issues to be resolved over the coming months, concerning areas such as the labelling of deli processed meats, how the government will enforce the proposed arrangements, and ensuring Australia’s WTO obligations are respected.

"Australian Pork Limited will continue to work constructively with the government through this next phase,"​ it added.

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