DINKY- DI TEST ON FOOD LA­BELLING

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - RE­NEE VIELLARIS

NEW ori­gin- of- food la­bels will re­veal only the “Aus­tralian­ness’’ of gro­ceries, mean­ing con­sumers who bought con­tam­i­nated berries last year would not have known they were from China.

The Ab­bott Gov­ern­ment yesterday re­vealed that from April 1 most gro­ceries will have to in­clude a new la­bel to ex­plain the per­cent­age of Aus­tralian in­gre­di­ents.

Cus­tomers will re­ceive less in­for­ma­tion un­der the new scheme un­til a new smart phone app will be de­vel­oped so they can scan a bar­code, which will pro­vide ex­tra de­tails. The Gov­ern­ment is work­ing on get­ting the app ready.

The new sys­tem will ap­ply mainly to fresh food, dairy prod­ucts, canned goods, rice and pasta, mean­ing a ma­jor­ity of pro­cessed foods will not have to com­ply.

The move, a win for farm­ers who com­plain the cur­rent la­belling sys­tem is mis­lead­ing and hurt­ing lo­cal grow­ers, has been wel­comed by ma­jor su­per­mar­kets but ques­tioned by con­sumer groups. The states, be­lieved to be sup­port­ive of the plan, will have to give their ap­proval be­cause un­der con­sumer law they will pros­e­cute those who pro­vide mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion about prod­ucts.

There will be six manda­tory la­bels that re­veal the per­cent­age of Aus- tralian in­gre­di­ents. Pat­ties Foods re­called its Nanna’s mixed berries, rasp­ber­ries and Cre­ative Gourmet mixed berries ear­lier this year af­ter they were linked to a hep­ati­tis A out­break in which 34 peo­ple in six states con­tracted the virus, all af­ter eat­ing the same brand of mixed berries.

The pack­ag­ing said the berries were a prod­uct from China. If the new la­belling scheme was in place, it would have had the la­bel “Made in Aus­tralia from 0 per cent Aus­tralian in­gre­di­ents”, mean­ing it would not re­veal where the berries were from. In­dus­try Min­is­ter Ian Macfar­lane, a for­mer peanut farmer, said the new laws were good news for con­sumers.

“In the past, it was al­ways a case of frus­tra­tion where you would pick up a can and it would say some­thing like ‘ made in Aus­tralia’ ( and) the over­whelm­ing sen­ti­ment of that state­ment was that, ob­vi­ously, this prod­uct is Aus­tralian,’’ Mr Macfar­lane said.

“Then on greater in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it ... might have been put into a can in Aus­tralia but that’s about as far as it went.’’

But con­sumer group CHOICE said cus­tomers would still be left con­fused.

“The new sys­tem looks less use­ful for con­sumers want­ing in­for­ma­tion about any of the 195 coun­tries that are not Aus­tralia,” spokesman Tom God­frey said.

Pic­ture: TARA CROSER

SOURCE CON­FU­SION: Amy Ma­her, 21, shops for frozen food in Coles yesterday.

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