Since 1 July, Australian consumers have had greater certainty about the origins of the food they buy, due to the introduction of mandatory Country of Origin food labelling. The ACCC is now conducting market surveillance checks on 10,000 food products to ensure businesses are correctly displaying the new labels.
All businesses—including manufacturers, processors and importers that offer food for retail sale in Australia—need to comply with the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard, which specifies how claims can be made about the origin of food products.
The new requirements apply to most food offered for retail sale in Australia, including food sold in stores or markets, online or from a vending machine. It does, however, exclude food sold in restaurants, cafes, take-away shops or schools.
“Consumers should look out for the new labels if they want to find out where their food is grown, produced, made or packed, so they can make an informed decision about the food they buy,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh says.
“We’ve been providing guidance for businesses over the past two years about the new food labelling system, including how to apply and interpret the standard. We are now entering the compliance phase, where we are making sure businesses are presenting accurate information about country of origin to their customers.”
The ACCC’s market surveillance aims to identify businesses that may not be complying with the food labelling laws.
“We have people on the ground to carry out these inspections and will initially focus on fresh or short shelf products sold by supermarkets, both large and small. We will raise concerns with businesses where we believe there is an issue with country of origin labelling. As always, we are able to escalate cases which warrant stronger action,” Mick says.
“Some consumers are willing to pay extra for products grown, produced or made in Australia, and producers and importers should be aware that any claim which is likely to mislead consumers will also be a breach of the law. We just want to ensure that consumers can make informed choices and businesses have a level playing field to compete fairly in relation to these claims.”