DINKY- DI TEST ON FOOD LABELLING
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.
SOURCE CONFUSION: Amy Maher, 21, shops for frozen food in Coles yesterday.