Growcom calls for clearer country of origin labelling

In the run up to the Australia Day long weekend peak horticulture body Growcom has expressed concern at a recent Choice survey that found that most Aussie consumers are still unsure where their food comes from for want of clear labels for food, and fruit and vegetables in particular. Growcom is once again calling for clearer country of origin labeling for food products so that consumers can be sure the food they eat in their Australia Day celebrations is Aussie grown.

A recent Choice survey found that 90% of respondents were unsure where their food comes from and nearly 70% wanted clearer labels for fruit and vegetables in particular.

Growcom Chief Advocate Rachel Mackenzie said the current labeling system was misleading and not in the best interests of consumers or growers. Growcom has been lobbying for more than 10 years to change the misleading ‘Made in Australia’ definition, which means that packaged and tinned product can carry that label but have little local content at all.

“The ‘Made in Australia’ label can currently be placed on a product if 50% of the costs are incurred here and it undergoes ‘substantial transformation’ after being imported. Mixing, homogenisation and curing are all considered to be a substantial transformation,” Ms Mackenzie said.

In a submission to a 2009 Senate Inquiry, Growcom called for the ‘Australian Grown’ definition:

‘…that each significant ingredient has been grown in Australia, and that all or virtually all of the processes involved in the production of the good have occurred in Australia’

to become the definition for ‘Made in Australia’, ‘product of Australia’, and any other label or symbol that would lead consumers to think that the product’s ingredients were substantially local. Growcom recently made similar comments in a submission on a change to labeling laws promoted by the Greens.

“We note with interest the Choice proposal to streamline the labeling system to include three options; however, we ask that, as the organisation has itself recommended, there be consultation with affected industries as there is great potential for confusion and unintended consequences,” Ms Mackenzie said.

The importance of clear labeling was highlighted in another Choice survey, which indicated that a quarter of all grocery items sold in Australian supermarkets is private label (i.e. home brand) and of those, half are imported.

This survey found that an overwhelming number of respondents would pay more for products that they knew were produced in Australia from local ingredients. Poor labeling laws do not give consumers that option or provide the financial benefits back to local growers.