Australia’s new food labelling laws
July 1 marked the introduction of new country of origin food labelling laws in Australia. These laws have been transitioned in for the past two years but are now mandatory. For anyone who works in the food manufacturing industry, it’s important to be aware of these changes and how they impact the business they operate in.
Packaged food labels are now more transparent
Packaged food products must show what proportion of ingredients are made, processed or packed in Australia.
The new laws were introduced following the frozen berry scare in 2015 where berries imported from China and Chile infected 25 people with hepatitis A. As a result, consumers demanded more information about where their packaged food products came from.
While many businesses have proudly displayed the triangular Made in Australia badge for years, the label has been the subject of controversy. It wasn’t clear to manufacturers or consumers exactly whether all or just some of the ingredients in the food product was made in Australia.
Under the new laws, packaged food products must show what proportion of the ingredients were made, processed or packed in Australia.
The penalties for non-compliance are high
Not all packaged food products are required to carry the new labels, so its important to know which ones are.
For anyone involved in designing or approving labels, they need to ensure that all new labels that come off the production line meet the new requirements. A product can only carry the “Made in Australia” badge if the majority of production occurred in Australia. In addition, the label must show what proportion of the ingredients actually came from Australia, however, it doesn’t need to say which countries the imported ingredients came from.
If a product is just packaged in Australia, like the frozen berries that sparked this change, the label can state that it’s “Packed in Australia” but must also show the proportion of Australian ingredients used in the product.
To make the situation even more complicated, not all packaged food products are required to carry the new labels. Highly processed foods like confectionery, snack foods, soft drinks, and alcohol are exempt yet unpackaged fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts and spices are not. It’s important to know which products are covered and which are not to ensure that businesses are compliant.
For products that change the proportion of their local ingredients depending on fluctuating supply, changing packaging labels for everything that comes off the production line is no easy feat. That’s why businesses must rely on their quality and regulatory teams to be aware of the changes. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is keeping a watchful eye over the changes with steep penalties for failing to comply – up to $1.1 million for companies or $220,000 for individuals.
Understanding these laws is essential to people who work in the food production industry. To find out more about opportunities in the industry get in touch.