Why new Country of Origin labelling?
Remember the frozen berry recall in February this year? If so, you may also recall that this incident led to widespread calls for better information to be provided on the label of food products sold in Australia so that consumers could understand where the food had been produced and/or where the ingredients in it had been grown. In reality, this matter had been under consideration by the Australian government for some time – indeed a report on an inquiry into country of origin labelling of foods had been released in October 2014. Nevertheless, the frozen berry incident undoubtedly provided significant impetus for the development of a system for country of origin labelling of food in Australia.
The outcome of this is that the Australian Government is proposing a new labelling system to deliver clearer and more consistent messages regarding the country of origin of foods sold in Australia. The proposed new system was announced in July.
The new labeling system is a big step towards ending the confusion around country of origin labeling, especially for consumers who want to know how much of a product was manufactured or grown locally.
How will it affect chicken meat?
Three years ago, the ACMF undertook a survey which revealed that widespread misconceptions out there in the community about the origin of chicken meat sold in Australia, with over 65 percent of Australians believing that some, most or even all of chicken meat in Australia is imported ((Ref: Galaxy Research, Australians aged 18-64 years, sample 1,218 respondents, July, 2012). This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, as I explained in my blog back in March:
All fresh and frozen raw chicken meat and virtually all further processed and cooked chicken products that are offered for sale in Australia have been produced in Australia (and I mean the chickens have been grown on Australian farms, and processed in Australian processing plants, to Australian standards). Some cooked chicken meat (probably less than half a percent of all chicken meat sold in Australia), is imported, but only if the chicken meat has been processed in accordance with the required protocols (which include prolonged exposure to high temperatures) to destroy viruses and bacteria of concern and to ensure that there is no unacceptable risk to consumers or Australian poultry. This product mainly ends up as an ingredient to processed food (e.g. in canned chicken, soups or animal food). A small amount of cooked chicken meat is also imported from New Zealand.
What will the consumer see in store?
Once introduced, consumers will see statements about where the food was produced, grown, made or packaged. Most Australian food will carry the familiar green kangaroo symbol and an indication of the proportion of Australian ingredients through a statement and a bar graph on the packaging. The new system will also provide clearer rules around when food labels can carry ‘made in’ or ‘packed in’ statements.
The new labelling system is expected to be rolled out in 2016.
What about chicken labels specifically?
Because virtually all chicken meat on sale in Australia has been grown and produced in Australia, you could expect:
• On all fresh chicken, consumers could expect to see ‘Grown In’ Australia country of origin claims.
• On frozen value added chicken products, consumers could expect to see ‘Packed In’ statements and ‘Made In’ Australia claims from 100% Australian chicken / or xx% Australian ingredients.
• On the small range of products containing imported chicken (for example some canned chicken products), consumers will see statements regarding the country of origin eg ‘Made in New Zealand’.
So, will the proposed new country of origin labelling system help to correct existing misconceptions? I hope it will provide reassurance and a reminder to Australian consumers that, whether it is frozen, fresh or value added, close to 100% of all chicken sold in Australia is locally grown. Look out for familiar green and gold on pack!