The Land NSWFA View - Food label confusion

The Land Newspaper
NSW Farmers View
7 November 2013

Peter Darley - Horticulture Committee Chair

FEDERAL Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson presented his views on food labeling at his address last week to the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFCG} Industry Leader Forum.

Following his comments on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission  and Australian Competition  Law, Mr Billson highlighted  the confusion faced by consumers when trying to make sense of country-of-origin statements.

We know it is a requirement of Australian law that all imported and domestically  produced  food is labeled with the country-of-origin.

However, what constitutes legal representations of country-of-origin labeling is defined by the Competition and Consumer Act.

It is these definitions  which create most of the confusion. Australian consumers may be surprised to know that 35 per cent of processed fruit and 28pc of processed vegetables are imported.

Odds are you are buying foreign food whether you want to or not.

Our growers are recognised globally as clean and green producers  of quality food and yet despite this, grocery brands continue to source imported ingredients even though consumers are becoming more aware. Research commissioned by the Australian Made Campaign and released this year by Roy Morgan revealed that buying Australian-made and grown matters more to consumers now than it did a year ago.

Our figures are taken from the Federal Department of Agriculture's Foodmap report released last year.

The same report reveals that more than 97pc of the grocery brands in the canned fruit and frozen vegetable categories are foreign owned.

Foreign companies can easily rationalise sourcing imported ingredients with their increasingly integrated  supply chains and alliances with foreign producers.

Supermarket private-label products are also accountable  noting their growing market share.

The private-label market share of canned fruit rose from 20pc in 2002 to 34pc in 2010.

The commitments  made by Coles and Woolies to source locally reflect the changing consumer preferences, but is it enough?

Branded groceries need to follow suit and this will only be motivated by clearer country-of-origin labeling. Despite all of this, the elephant in
the room is the food service industry which is currently exempt from labeling requirements.

This market accounts for 73pc of the domestic market for processed fruit and vegetables.

Contact: Veneta Chapple

Phone: 0429 990 218

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