So what do Made in Australia or Product of Australia actually mean? Well, it is not really clear to the public and as a result of the outcry over the recent Hepatitis outbreak from imported berries, there is yet another government review underway on Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL).
So why is it so difficult to have a clear message for CoOL? The problem is that in Australia it is seen and felt as an emotional issue, whereas it should be dealt with scientifically and logically.
Australians are renowned for being very patriotic in their defence of Australian products, unfortunately shopping figures do not necessarily support this, as price is still the main consideration in purchasing food. However, more and more people are making a conscience choice to buy local produced food product regardless of the likely price increase.
It seems almost ridiculous that food can be grown, and processed overseas and then transported here and still be cheaper than the same local product. Why is this – our wages are higher and this changes everything.
Many say that the reason that the current labelling is not really clear to consumers is that manufacturers are trying to hide the actual origin to encourage people to buy their product.
Once again, this is emotion talking, not logic or science.
The difficulty is this should a food be labelled as being made in Australia if the packaging comes from overseas or if one of the ingredients has to be purchased from overseas if it cannot be obtained here?
There is no a push to develop a specific symbol which will be used on food product sourced and made here. Unfortunately that symbol will not be used on many products as to keep costs down, many manufacturers have to use ingredients sourced from overseas.
Maybe we need some form of the suggested nutrition traffic lights in this symbol – red for 50% or less Australian sourced and made, orange for 50-80% and green for at least 80%.
The good thing is that even though there has been a lot of pressure on the government to do something immediately about the whole CoOL issue, it has decided to slow down and have consultations and “in-depth consumer research”, before recommendations are presented to Cabinet. It is believed that these will be submitted in August 2015. That gives nearly five months for ideas and suggestions on how to make CoOL clearer to be developed.
Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane said; “During April and May we will consult closely with food manufacturers, retailers, agricultural producers and consumers and conduct national in-depth consumer research. We will also consult extensively with State and Territory Governments, whose co-operation will be essential to implement changes in a timely and cost-effective way.”
The Australian Made Campaign is only one group which has welcomed the consultation process.
Ian Harrison, Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, said; “Australian Made has submitted comment to and appeared before a number of Government Committees on country-of-origin labelling in recent years and it is great to finally see traction in this important area of Government policy. 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. There is also an obvious role for the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo. It has been helping Australian farmers and manufacturers sell genuine Aussie products to consumers all around the world for nearly three decades. It makes good sense to build on that.”
Mr Harrison said a “widespread education campaign” would be an “essential” part of the revised system.
Written by Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach.