The Australian Government has introduced a new country of origin food labelling system, which commenced on 1 July 2016. Under the new system, country of origin labelling requirements come under Australian Consumer Law.
Businesses have two years to change their food labels to comply with the new law before it becomes mandatory on 1 July 2018.
Information about the new labels is available on the Department of Industry website.
General information about country of origin labelling is available from the ACCC website.
Current requirements for country of origin labelling in Australia
The Food Standards Code sets out country of origin labelling requirements for food offered for retail sale in Australia. Businesses must continue to comply with the country of origin labelling requirements in the Food Standards Code until 1 July 2018, unless they choose to voluntarily adopt the Australian Consumer Law Standard earlier.
With the introduction of the new system, FSANZ has proposed through Proposal P1041: that the Food Standards Code be amended to remove its country of origin labelling requirements at the end of the two-year transition period.
The following information outlines the country of origin requirements in the Food Standards Code.
Food Standards Code country of origin labelling requirements – packaged foods
Packaged food must carry a statement identifying either:
- the country where the food was made, produced or grown; or
- the country where the food was manufactured or packaged and that the food is a mix of ingredients imported into that country or a mix of local and imported ingredients.
The country of origin of the ingredients can also be stated.
Food Standards Code country of origin labelling requirements – unpackaged foods
Country of origin labelling applies to unpackaged fresh and processed fruit, vegetables, nuts, spices, herbs, legumes, seeds, fish (including shellfish) and meat (pork, beef, sheep and chicken).
For example, the following unpackaged foods are required to have country of origin labelling:
- fresh and sun-dried tomatoes
- processed ham and bacon
- fresh and smoked fish fillets, and crumbed fish fillets
- fresh apples and dried apples
- chicken, pork, beef and lamb.
The country of origin of the food must be identified, or, if the food is a mix of foods from different countries, the retailer can state each country of origin or that the food is a mix of local and imported foods, or a mix of imported foods.
For unpackaged food, country of origin information can be written on a sign near the food or on labels, e.g. stickers on fruit.
Are there any exemptions from country of origin labelling?
Some food is exempt from country of origin labelling requirements, including food sold for immediate consumption e.g. food sold in cafes, restaurants and canteens, and food that is made and packaged on the premises it is sold, such as in a bakery.
Does country of origin labelling apply in New Zealand?
Country of origin labelling is voluntary in New Zealand and suppliers may choose not to display this information. There is an exception for grape wine, which must be labelled with its country or countries of origin. When suppliers do include country of origin information, it must be accurate.
All food must be labelled with the contact details of the food supplier in New Zealand or Australia, so you can contact the supplier and ask for details about the food.