The Australian Made Campaign has welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to consult with stakeholders and undertake consumer research into its proposal to introduce a mandatory Australian content symbol for all locally produced food products.
The Federal Government began consultations and consumer research earlier this month in an effort to deliver clearer and more consistent country of origin labelling for food sold in Australia.
The calls for more transparent labelling comes following the recent Hepatitis A scare involving imported berries from China, believed to be linked to Patties-owned Nanna’s frozen berries ranges.
“This is a very important initiative of the government and it is imperative therefore that the government gets it right,” Australian Made Campaign CEO, Ian Harrison, said.
Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane, and Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, met with key food industry stakeholders at a roundtable meeting in Sydney at the start of this month to discuss the next steps in introducing a clear and easy tounderstand food labelling system.
Macfarlane said that during April and May the ministers 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,” Macfarlane said.
“The bottom line is to give consumers the information they are calling out for, without imposing excessive costs on industry,” Macfarlane said.
It is believed the ministers will be submitting further recommendations to Cabinet in August on changes to the current labelling laws, and what the proposed new symbol will look like.
Australian Made’s Harrison said a widespread education campaign will be an essential component of the revised system.
“A tighter system for food labelling, coupled with a better understanding of that system by consumers, will give Aussie shoppers more confidence in what they are purchasing,” he said.
Andrew White, deputy CEO of AusVeg, said yesterday on World Health Day that recent public health scares involving imported produce have thrust food safety front and centre in the psyche of Australian consumers and galvanised their preference for supporting Australian producers, and purchasing local produce.
“The problem is that our current country of origin labelling laws are not clear enough and don’t always allow consumers to exercise choice, and our imported food inspection scheme only screens the majority of imported fruit and vegetable consignments at a low rate of only five per cent,” White said.
This week, Roy Morgan released findings from its new study which found the proportion of Australians 14 years and over who are more likely to buy food if it is labelled ‘Made in Australia’ increased from 85 per cent to 88 per cent over the last two years.
In contrast, only six per cent of Australians say they’d be more likely to buy food labelled ‘Made in China’ (almost unchanged from five per cent in 2013).
The study also found that Aussies aged under 35 are dramatically more likely than their older counterparts to buy a food product if it is labelled ‘Made in China’, however, even among the under-35s, food labelled Australian made is far more popular overall, with its popularity rising among people aged 35 and older.
Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research, said the need for more transparent food labelling has never been more significant in the wake of recent food scandals.
“It will be interesting to see whether attitudes to Chinese manufactured food products shift in the wake of the recent Hepatitis scare caused by frozen berries imported from China. Certainly, the call for clearer country of origin food labelling has never been more relevant,” Levine said.