Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has approved a proposal to extend country of origin labelling to unpackaged beef, sheep and chicken meat.
FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Steve McCutcheon said the decision had been notified to food regulation ministers who had 60 days to seek a review. If no review is sought the decision is gazetted and becomes part of food law in Australian states and territories. There is a six month implementation period once the change is gazetted.
Mr McCutcheon said the Australian Government had asked FSANZ to address an inconsistency in country of origin labelling requirements for unpackaged meat after a change in rules for beef imports was made in 2010.
Food regulation ministers also asked FSANZ to continue this work in response to one of the recommendations of an independent review of food labelling headed by Dr Neal Blewett.
“Research indicates country of origin information is important to consumers and is valued more in fresh food products such as fresh meat than other food categories,” Mr McCutcheon said.
“Mandating additional country of origin labelling requirements will ensure consumers are provided with access to this information consistently across the retail sector.”
Mr McCutcheon said the cost of the change to industry is not expected to be great as many retailers already label products voluntarily.
Australia currently exports far more meat than it imports. In recent years, beef imports have accounted for around 0.5% (imported from New Zealand and Vanuatu) of beef consumption, while sheep imports accounted for 0.2% of Australia sheep meat consumption. Australia does not import any fresh chicken meat because of quarantine restrictions.
CFA member CHOICE has welcomed the move, but cautioned that more work is needed on confusing terminology.
For full details about approvals and other standards matters see the FSANZ notification circular.