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Consultations start on food origin labelling

1 April 2015

The Australian Government will begin consultations and in-depth consumer research from today to deliver clearer and more consistent country of origin labelling for food sold in Australia.

Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said the Government wanted country of origin labelling that gives consumers the information they need without imposing excessive costs on industry.

The Ministers met with key food industry stakeholders at a roundtable meeting in Sydney today to discuss the next steps in introducing a clear and easy-to-understand food labelling system.

“During April and May we will consult closely with food manufacturers, retailers, agricultural producers and consumers and conduct national in-depth consumer research,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“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.

“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.

“The bottom line is to give consumers the information they are calling out for, without imposing excessive costs on industry.”

Minister Joyce said the Australian people have asked for this change and that the Government would deliver it.

"Australian consumers have made it clear they want unambiguous and more consistent country of origin food labelling, so they can make more informed choices about the food they buy,” Mr Joyce said.

“We hear clearly that consumers want more information about where their food has been grown and processed. I’ve received in the order of 26,000 emails and about 150 personally written letters asking us to make improvements to country of origin labelling, and more than a million Australians visited my website in response to the Government's announcement.

"Current labelling in many instances is misleading and people have a right not to be misled about the origins of the food they buy.

“Simple, diagrammatic information on a package will allow people to tell at a glance what proportion of the food in a package comes from Australia – and it must be compulsory.

“The Government is taking action on this issue now and will steadily work through the complex implementation process. Of course there will be a phase-in period to ensure Australian producers have time to adjust to new labelling requirements.

"This was one of the key issues raised as part of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper process and I'm pleased to see this important reform being progressed independently of the forthcoming White Paper."

A working group of Ministers representing sectors including industry, agriculture, small business, health and trade will develop the Government’s position on improvements that do not impose excessive costs on industry.

Consultations will include a series of roadshows for businesses and consumers in both metropolitan and regional centres and conumer market research.

More information on the consultation and consumer research is available at: www.industry.gov.au/cool.

Media contacts:

Minister Macfarlane's office: 02 6277 7070
Minister Joyce's office: 02 6277 7520