ACCC consumer guide on country of origin

Australian Competition and Consumer Chairman Rod Sims has announced new steps to provide consumers with clear advice about country of origin labelling claims and olive oil quality claims.

Mr Sims said, “Some people will pay a premium for an Australian product or a guarantee of quality. But consumers must know what they are buying.”

In a speech to the Australian Food & Grocery Council in Canberra on11 October, Mr Sims addressed the importance of consumers having access to clear and understandable guidance on the claims made on labels, packaging and in advertising about where products have been made or grown.

“The ACCC does not believe there is an essential problem with the current classifications. The problem is people’s understanding of what they mean,” Mr Sims said.

“The problem arises, it seems to me, if the only label people are looking for is ‘Made in Australia’ when what they want is a product fully from Australian sources. When they realise that a ‘Made in Australia’ product can be made from some overseas ingredients they question the validity of the origin claims.

They should not. We need a classification system that deals with where a product is made. The problem is they should be looking for a ‘Product of Australia’ label,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC is therefore releasing consumer friendly advice to decode the various origin claims of Made in Australia, Product of Australia and Grown in Australia,” said Mr Sims.

‘Product of/Grown in’ and ‘Made in’ are the most common types of claims consumers are likely to come across as they walk down the aisle. Labels such as ‘Proudly Australian owned’ or ‘100% Australian owned’ are statements are about the ownership of the company not the origin of the product or its ingredients.

“The ACCC is also launching a buying guide for consumers which provides information about the different grades of olive oil products, how they differ as well as some storage tips. The guide will help consumers make informed purchasing decisions.”

“With labels and prices varying significantly between and within brands it can be confusing to know which olive oil is best. Claims such as Extra virgin, virgin, pure and light should allow consumers to trust that what’s on the label is what’s in the bottle.

The ACCC’s advice follows enforcement action earlier this year. In May, the Big Olive Company Pty Ltd paid two infringement notices totalling $13,200 for labelling products as ‘extra virgin olive oil’ that the ACCC considered were not.