Australian Pork Industry Calls for Origin Labelling Reform08 May 2014
AUSTRALIA - The pork industry says confusing and unfair labelling laws make it impossible for consumers to choose local ham and bacon, even if they want to.
According to ABC, a new House of Representatives Inquiry into country of origin food labelling heard evidence from Australian Pork Limited (APL), other industry groups and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in Canberra on Thursday.
The committee chairman and South Australian Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey, says his inquiry will try to find out why reforms proposed by previous labelling inquiries haven't been adopted.
APL chief executive Andrew Spencer says the pork industry wants the 'substantial transformation' definition, which allows imported products to be labelled as Australian as long as they are 'substantially transformed' in Australia, to be reviewed.
"The Australian Made/Australian Grown logo code of practice, for example, does not allow the use of the 'Australian Made' logo on bacon or ham, due to consumer confusion over its meaning, and we believe that regulated claims need to be similarly changed," he told the hearing.
Mr Spencer says the Australian pork industry is a world leader on initiatives around animal welfare and environmental management, product safety and biosecurity, but labelling laws mean they're not able to capitalise on consumer demand for those production processes.
"Today's country of origin labelling laws make consumer-informed choice almost impossible, which helps perpetuate 70 per cent of Australia's ham and bacon consumption being made from imported pork.
"A fact of which most consumers remain unaware," Mr Spencer said.
Officials from across the range of government departments involved in food labelling agreed in giving their evidence, that the current system is confusing and complex.
But the manager of the Industry Department's trade facilitation section, Lyndall Milward-Bason, told the hearing that that doesn't mean the system itself is broken.
"When the consumer agencies did a campaign in 2012-13, as to whether or not there was any systemic falsification of origin claims, or misleading claims, they did find minimal evidence of any falsification," she said.
"If someone could come up with a formula that would do better [that would be considered]. We've had some suggestions come through the Senate, and they've had some fundamental flaws in those proposals.
"It is working. While consumers are confused by the actual labels, there's been a finding that the labels themselves are not misleading or deceptive, it's a matter of education.
"That's why the processes we're going through aren't about changing regulation, or new regulation, or additional regulation, it's about education of the consumers through new guidance material and, if necessary, an education campaign."
But Mr Milward-Bason says confusion isn't the only problem some consumers have when it comes to country of origin labelling.
"A lot of complaints we get through the minister's office are people who think that anything that says it's Australian has to be 100 per cent Australian, otherwise they've been mislead.
"So that's an expectation, and from an industry point of view, that's just not possible. There are many foods produced in this country that are not 100 per cent Australian," she said.
"If you made a regulation that said you could only say 'Australian' if it was 100 per cent Australian, you'd probably wipe out most of the food processors in this country."
TheMeatSite News Desk