The labelling reforms, which came into effect at the start of July, have been designed to make it easier for consumers to find out where their food comes from.
The new bar chart under an “Australian Made” kangaroo logo, along with a legend, is supposed to make it clearer to find where an item has been produced, grown, made or packed.
But the labelling still offers scope to provide more information to consumers, said Bill Bellotti of Queensland University.
“Australians have the right to information on environmental impacts, ethical consequences and the sustainability of their food choices,” Prof. Bellotti said.
“The new food labels are a direct response to public concerns after the imported frozen berries scandal, but the government also needs to consider not just how the foods we eat are impacting our personal health but also on the health of the planet.”
Last year, country-of-origin labelling was put in the spotlight after berries picked in China and packed in Australia were said to be behind a spate of hepatitis cases. It was later found that they were not the cause of the outbreak.
“Our food choices are responsible for 70% of fresh water use, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and the large majority of land use,” Prof. Bellotti added.
“The way we eat determines to a large extent how the earth’s resources are used. Small changes in our diet can have big benefits for our health and for the health of the planet.”
Citing a growing global trend for consumers to demand more information about what they are eating, Prof. Bellotti said that the easiest way to source this information is often from food labels.
“Most people don’t have time to read a long and complicated message, so a good label is clear and has the impact to change the way people shop at the point of purchase.”
Researchers believe that Australians have been grappling with food labelling for decades, but with mixed success.
A study into the National Heart Foundation’s “Tick” label suggests that consumers do not want health labels that can be purchased by food manufacturers, he said.
He also believes that it is vital that Australian food exporters stay ahead of innovative labelling trends to ensure they can exploit lucrative international markets.