Australian Parliament clears new country of origin labeling laws
One of Australia's leading grower body's has welcomed changes to food labeling laws that were passed this week by parliament, partly in response to a frozen berries health scare two years ago.
The legislation is part of the government's country-of-origin labeling reform package and passed on Wednesday night, according to The Australian.
It reported the move was intended to give consumers a clearer understanding of where their food comes from, tackling confusing claims like "made in Australia from local and imported ingredients" when a product may only be minimally processed in Australia.
The new reforms - which were first attempted last year but which were interrupted by the Federal election - alter the definition of “substantial transformation” as it applies to country of origin labeling and make it clear that minor processes do not count as substantial transformation.
Specifically, the new definition of substantial transformation requires that products be “fundamentally different in identity, nature or essential character from all of their ingredients”.
More than 30 people across Australia contracted Hepatitis A in 2015 after consuming the same brand of frozen berries, according to the publication.
"If the new system had applied at the time of the frozen berry scare, consumers would have been none the wiser about the origins of the berries that became a matter of contention," Kim Carr from the Labor party was quoted as saying to parliament.
"Nonetheless, the system is better than what it has replaced."
In a statement, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce said: "Australians want to know where their food was made or packed, and how much was sourced for Australian growers."
“This is something consumers have been wanting for a long time now.
"Thanks to our work in this area, we are already seeing food products such as Beechworth Honey, Birdseye Country Harvest Garden Mix and Angas Park dried apples displaying new country of origin labels in our supermarkets.
“With the new requirements passing through the Senate, businesses that have not already started the process can begin rolling out the new labels with confidence."
The development has also been welcomed by vegetable grower body AUSVEG, which said the changes would "help consumers have confidence about the true source of their food."
“These changes will help to protect Australians from importers who mask their products’ country of origin by making superficial changes to the ingredients and claiming that this changes where the food was made,” AUSVEG national manager of public affairs Jordan Brooke-Barnett said.
“By clarifying the requirements of the ‘made in’ label claim, these reforms will benefit Australian consumers, who deserve to know where their food comes from – not where some ingredients were frozen or chopped up.”