Country of origin labels revealed – will they help?

The new country of origin food labelling system has been revealed last night, featuring a green and gold kangaroo and a sliding scale that tells you the percentage of the product grown in Australia.

The new labelling system, which will accompany the nutrition-information and health choices labels, is intended to reassure us that our food comes from a safe source, following the hepatitis-contaminated berries scare earlier this year.

Here is what you will see on your packaged food in the coming months:

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But, as consumer watchdog Choice points out, the labels fall short in that there is no requirement for manufacturers to say where the remaining 75, 50 or 25 per cent of food comes from. Unless the producer specifically says somewhere on the packet “berries/peas/grains from Chile/China/Nicaragua”, we’re none the wiser.

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The costs of the new labelling is also likely to passed on to the customer. Fairfax News estimated this would be at a rate of 1¢ for $5 products, and 0.5¢ on $2.50 products.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says 80 per cent of the 17,000 consumers the government surveyed said they were willing to pay more for the labels.

“This goes to show the consumer is willing to pay for better information. Across all products and also other manufactured goods there is actually a saving”.

Tom Godfrey, a spokesman for Choice, “Unfortunately the new system leaves it up to the manufacturers to voluntarily declare the origin of a product’s main ingredient”.

When asked how the new labelling system would help prevent future outbreaks of contamination, the Prime Minister said the labels are a separate issue from food safety standards. “Different people might have different views about where you are most likely to be confident in the quality of your food.

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“But they are two separate issues. We are dealing with one. Obviously it is up to the various levels of government to deal with the other”.

How do you like the new labelling system? Will it help you make a more informed choice in the supermarket aisle?