Keep food labelling simple: CHOICE

CHOICE is proposing reforms to simplify country of origin labelling in Australia, after a survey found that 90% of respondents are not clear about where their food comes from.

To help shoppers, the consumer group is calling for labelling to be simplified to three claims:

  • ‘Product of Australia’ – a claim about where the ingredients are from and where they are processed
  • ‘Manufactured in Australia’ – a claim about where the food was manufactured
  • ‘Packaged in Australia’ – a basic claim to accommodate products which by law have to carry an origin declaration.

“When choosing food, consumers tell us that knowing it comes from is an important issue – second only to information on the ingredients it contains,” says CHOICE food policy advisor Angela McDougall.

“We also know that Australian consumers are finding country of origin labelling confusing with a proliferation of vague and muddy claims like ‘Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients’, which mean little.”

In a recent CHOICE survey, 90% of respondents said country of origin labelling is unclear, but how important it is varies by type of food. Respondents placed the most importance on primary produce such as meat and vegetables, followed by foods like dairy and bread. Origin was least important when it came to highly processed foods like soft drink and confectionery.

Ms McDougall says proposed reforms would give clarity and meaning with credible claims such as ‘Product of Australia’ and ‘Manufactured in Australia’, while ‘Packaged in Australia’ would provide a useful descriptor for products with multiple ingredients from different countries.

Under CHOICE’s proposal, ‘from local and imported ingredients’ would not be permitted. If manufacturers want to provide additional information, they should specify the ingredient and where it is from.

Below are examples of products that show how the proposed claims could be used compared with the claims that are currently used.

Product Current claim Claim under CHOICE’s approach
Ozzie milk
Full cream fresh milk
Product of Australia Product of Australia
Susan’s pumpkin soup
Just heat and eat
Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients Made in Australia from Australian pumpkin
Smith’s Vegie Trio
Snap frozen carrots, peas and potatoes
Packaged in Australia from local and imported ingredients Packaged in Australia from  Australian carrots and peas