Country-of-origin labelling input open to consumers

AUSTRALIA'S new country of origin labelling system will be acid-tested with an online survey, following a two month consultation with the agricultural industry.

Consumers and everyday shoppers will be the target of the survey and the input is set to help design the new labelling system.

The concepts laid out by the government include having a bar, pie chart or a map of Australia coloured to identify the proportion of ingredients that are Australian, as well as text indicating both whether the product was 'made in' Australia and whether the ingredients are 'more than' or 'less than 50% local ingredients'.

Industry Minister Ian McFarlane said there were a number of options available under the new system.

"Consumers have told us loud and clear that they want more useful food labelling, and now we want to hear from them about which options they prefer," Mr MacFarlane said.

"Based on our consultation sessions in major capital and regional cities, we have valuable industry information on how we can implement a system that is fair and transparent for consumers without adding extra costs to business."

Calls from farming and horticulture groups for a new and more useful food labelling intensified in February following the recall of frozen mixed berry products imported from China and South America amid fears of Hepatitis A contamination.

The country's leading horticultural representative body AUSVEG welcomed the survey.

"While we support the implementation of diagrams to display the proportion of ingredients that are grown in Australia, AUSVEG remains of the view that specifically outlining the country of origin of the main ingredients is a vitally important part of giving consumers clarity," deputy CEO Andrew White said.

"We believe the term 'made in', which is proposed to be used to indicate where a product was manufactured, is too ambiguous, with a 2014 Choice survey indicating that only 12% of consumers were able to identify its current meaning."

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said improving country of origin labels would give consumers clear and concise information about the food available on supermarket shelves.

"Australians have asked for simpler food labelling and the government has listened; now is the chance for people to have their say on simpler and more logical ways to present the information," Mr Joyce said.

The survey is available at industry.gov.au/cool or by phoning 132846.



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