Country of Origin Labelling

Australian Government's Country Origin Labelling Reforms for food sold in Australia

On 1 July 2016, updated country of origin labelling requirements for food sold in Australia commenced, which now fall under the Information Standard under Australian Consumer Law. Under this Information Standard, business has two years to transition to these arrangements and current stock in trade can see out its shelf life.

More information about the labelling reforms | and Frequently Asked Questions | .

Additional information for consumers is available at www.foodlabels.industry.gov.au and from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

For business

Businesses are now able to design and affix labels in accordance with the Information Standard. Further information is available at business.gov.au/foodlabels, including:

  • an online decision tool to assist businesses to select and download labels to use
  • a Style Guide to help businesses to determine how the new labels should look and be applied to food products
  • the country of origin labelling library where the relevant label parts can be downloaded.

A guide for business on origin labelling for food, a more general guide 'Country of origin and the Australian Consumer Law', answers to Frequently Asked Questions and a webinar for food businesses are available on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) website.

Information for importers is available at business.gov.au/foodlabels. Trading partners will find specific information on Australia's country of origin labelling in the Factsheet for Trading Partners | .

Amendment to the safe harbour defences under the Australian Consumer Law

The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Country of Origin) Act 2017  to amend the safe harbour defences under the Australian Consumer Law commenced on 23 February. Details of the Act can be found on the Federal Register of Legislation website. The amendment is primarily intended to simplify the tests used to justify a country of origin ‘made in’ claim by clarifying what substantial transformation means and removing the 50 per cent production cost test. The Act also creates a new safe harbour defence for products labelled in accordance with Information Standards. The changes aim to better reflect consumer expectations and international practice, and align with the new Information Standard.

Minor amendments to the Information Standard

On 11 August 2017, a minor amendment was made to the Information Standard to align the legibility requirements for country of origin labelling displayed in association with food with the requirements for on-package labelling. This amendment primarily impacts food retailers, and provides greater flexibility for individual businesses to implement the new country of origin labelling requirements in the most cost-effective manner.

An earlier minor amendment was made on 28 November 2016, so that sections 22 and 23 (dealing with imported food packed in Australia) and section 26 (dealing with imported food with Australian ingredients) better reflect the decision made by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs on 31 March 2016. The amendment primarily relates to a very narrow range of foods that were made in a single overseas country and subsequently packed in Australia. 

Changes to labelling requirements for some imported foods packed in Australia | .

Country of origin labelling for seafood sold in the foodservice sector

On 28 November 2016, the Australian Government announced it would convene a working group to consider options for improving consumer access to seafood origin information in the foodservices sector. The Hon Craig Laundy MP, Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, is leading the Government’s working group consultations with key members of the seafood and foodservice industry. The Government will report its findings back to the Parliament.

Assistant Minister Laundy has chaired two meetings of the Seafood Origin Working Group (5 July and 22 November 2017) where he sought industry’s views on consumer access to seafood origin information in foodservice purchases. A working group paper was provided for the July meeting to inform discussions, and an addendum was provided for the November meeting.

Seafood Origin Working Group Paper | .

Addendum to Seafood Origin Information Working Group Paper | .

Digitisation of food product data

The Government also undertook to investigate future scope for businesses to provide consumers with food product information through digital means. The department engaged Deloitte in early 2017 to analyse digital food labelling solutions with potential application in Australia. The report found Australia’s food industry is considering solutions that may enable consumer access to digital food product information in the future. The final report can be used to inform future development of digital labelling solutions and is available on request by emailing originlabelling@industry.gov.au.

Background

After extensive consultation with industry and consumers, the Australian Government announced a new country of origin food labelling (CoOL) system on 21 July 2015.

CoOL for food has been mandatory in Australia for many years. Consumers, however, have found origin labels confusing or unhelpful. The Australian Government proposed a new system to deliver clearer and more consistent country of origin food labels without imposing excessive cost on industry. Market research commissioned by the department in June 2015, which included 18 focus groups and over 1200 surveys, showed strong endorsement for changes that would require food claimed to be Australian to include the proportion of Australian ingredients. For more information view the Consumer Research for Country of Origin Food Labelling | .

Following consultations, a Decision RIS was approved by Commonwealth, state and territory ministers with responsibility for consumer affairs (the Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs, or CAF) on 31 March 2016. For more information view the COAG Decision RIS | and the Communique from the CAF meeting. Amendment No. 165 – 1 September 2016 on making the variation to the Food Standards Code in response to Proposal P1041 – Removal of Country of Origin Labelling Requirements from the Food Standards Code is available from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Gazette notices website.

The new system sees the continuation of mandatory country of origin labelling for most food offered for retail sale in Australia. In addition to a statement about where the food was produced, grown, made or packaged, most Australian food will carry the familiar kangaroo symbol and an indication of the proportion of Australian ingredients by weight through a statement and a bar graph. The new system also introduces clearer rules around when food labels can carry 'made in' or 'packed in' statements. An evaluation of these reforms is scheduled for mid-2020.