IT IS less than three weeks before all products on supermarket shelves will be legally obligated to display country of origin information.
From July 1, producers will be mandated to comply with the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard, following a two-year transition period.
A spokesperson from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science could not quantify how many businesses had already introduced the changes but said, after July 1, non-compliance could result in enforcement action by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.
They said it was important any labelling claims made were not false or misleading, or corporations could face up to $1.1 million in financial penalties, while individuals could be fined up to $220,000.
”Pursuing businesses that engage in misleading or deceptive conduct or make false or misleading representations about their products is a priority for the ACCC,” they said.
La Casa Del Formaggio marketing manager Lauren Waters said the move to the CoOL had been a big project for the business, in terms of cost and time.
She believes the outcome may be “eye-opening” for consumers, to see what products are not made in Australia.
“It will give better insight into what products are made overseas or from majority overseas products,” she said.
They are unable to badge many products as fully-100 per cent Australian, as some of the cultures used in their cheese are not able to be sourced in Australia, and she says many other brands will be in similar situations.
“There is potential that since there is more transparency, companies will be looking for alternatives to get more local ingredients,” she said. “A lot of companies that we supply cheese to as an ingredient are coming to us to learn about our ingredient sourcing for their own labels. The more Australian we can be, the more Australian they can be.”
La Casa Del Formaggio has focused on promoting that it sources its milk from local farms, resulting in few food miles and the ability to go from “paddock-to-plate in under 12 hours”.
She says retailers can also play a major part in promoting the provenance of food, particularly in SA where there has been a push towards local produce.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the new labels would allow customers to “choose Australian and vote with their wallets”.
“Companies that source their products from Australia will be able to display it loud and proud and reap the rewards,” he said.
“It’s no surprise Aussies prefer Australian farm produce – we produce the cleanest and most ethical food in the world.”
But Centre for Global Food & Resources executive director Wendy Umberger, at the University of Adelaide, said the labels did not address actual consumer concerns.
“CoOL is tied to food safety concerns or wanting to support local producers and with the way labels are set up to show percentage of Australian produce, consumers not given anymore information about food safety,” Professor Umberger said.
“It doesn’t say what other country or countries have contributed.”