Australia’s country of origin labelling system for food products is to be overhauled following agreement by State and Territory Ministers for Consumer Affairs. Food offered for retail sale in Australia will be required to be labelled more clearly to inform consumers of the product’s origins.

Under the changes, foods of Australian origin will be identified by a kangaroo logo and a description of whether the food was grown, produced or made in Australia. Products can be labelled as “grown in” or “produced in” Australia where the ingredients are Australian and major processing occurred in Australia.  A “Made in Australia” label can be used where products underwent major processing in Australia, as distinct from minor processing such as freezing or bottling.  An optional “Packed in Australia” label may also be used, but cannot be accompanied by the kangaroo logo where the product is not of Australian origin.

The new system allows for a variety of standard phrases to reflect the degree to which the product is of Australian origin. Examples of permitted phrases include “Made in Australia from less than 10% Australian ingredients”, “Grown in France, Packed in Australia” and “Australian Macadamias (shelled in Fiji)”.  Manufacturers will be provided with some flexibility as to the design of the labelling, with a style guide and online-self assessment tool currently being developed.

The changes also introduce a requirement that products must be labelled with a bar chart depicting the percentage of Australian ingredients used in the manufacture of the product. Non-priority foods (such as confectionery, biscuits, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages) and wholly imported foods must be labelled with a written statement of origin, but will not need to include a bar chart and will be subject to less stringent label design requirements.

These changes will be imposed by a new Information Standard under the Australian Consumer Law. The current country of origin provisions, found in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, are set to be revoked.

The new labelling regime will commence on 1 July 2016, although businesses will be given two years to comply with the new requirements. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been provided with additional funding over five years to ensure compliance with the new standards.

An Australian Government fact sheet that explains the changes is available here.