Popular fish brands like Birds Eye, I&J and Neptune will no longer be sold as being ‘Made in Australia’ after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found it was misleading. Simplot Australia Pty Ltd, which owns Birds Eye, I&J and Neptune, has amended the country of origin labelling on 31 frozen fish products from ‘Made in Australia’ to ‘Packed in Australia’.
The consumer watchdog carried out compliance checks across a range of frozen fish products produced by Simplot and became concerned the products displayed a misleading ‘Made in Australia’ mark. In a statement, the ACCC said, under the Australian Consumer Law’s Country of Origin labelling provisions, if a food product, such as fish, “is packed in Australia without being substantially transformed, it cannot display a ‘Made in Australia’ mark”.
The ACCC found products sold by Simplot’s brands used fish imported from a number of countries including New Zealand, United States and South Africa. However, according to the consumer watchdog’s statement, Simplot was under the impression that slicing, crumbing and par-frying of the frozen fish “constituted substantial transformation, justifying the use of the ‘Made in Australia’ mark”.
After the ACCC raised concerns, Simplot agreed to change its country of origin labelling on these frozen fish products.
“Processes that only change the form or appearance of imported ingredients or components no longer qualify as substantial transformation,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said. “Country of origin labels are designed to inform consumers, some of whom may be willing to pay a premium for products they think are made in a particular country, especially Australia.”
Keogh went on to say while incorrect labelling can wrongly influence customers into purchasing a certain product, it also gives the brand a competitive advantage.
“Not only can incorrect labelling wrongly influence consumers into purchasing a certain product, it can also give a competitive advantage to those who use the ‘Made in Australia’ label in breach of the Australian Consumer Law,” he added. “We are pleased that Simplot co-operated with the ACCC investigation and agreed to make changes to its labelling, and on this basis we decided to resolve this matter administratively without taking enforcement action.”
According to the ACCC, all Simplot frozen fish products manufactured after October 31, 2020 will have the ‘Packed in Australia’ mark but products with the ‘Made in Australia’ mark may still be available in store until sold out.
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