HOW much notice do you take of the labelling on the products you buy from your local supermarket?
As someone who makes buying Australian products a priority, I spend a fair bit of time checking labels, and searching the shelves for locally-produced options. I'd suggest many people with a connection to agriculture would be in the same boat.
Thankfully, the introduction of the bar chart showing the proportion of Australian ingredients has sped up this process.
I've long been frustrated by how difficult it can be to find Australian tinned tomatoes or lemon juice, but recently something else caught my eye and got me wound up.
It was a product labelled 'plant-based braised beef'. Surely that's an oxymoron if ever I'd heard one!
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I was really surprised to see such a product being allowed to market itself as beef - not as a beef alternative, but as a specific style of beef, similar to how we would label beef mince, or stir fly beef strips.
Despite its labelling, the product in question was actually made mainly from shiitake mushrooms with various flavourings added.
Now I'm not suggesting that great swathes of consumers will mistake the product for actual beef, but it makes me question whether our labelling laws need updating to better reflect the growing market for plant-based products.
The issue is no different to the frustrations felt by the dairy industry as alternative 'milks' - made from oats, soybeans, almonds, rice, coconuts, cashews or even hemp - have risen in popularity. Such products are great for vegans or people with a lactose intolerance, but should they really be allowed to be branded as milk?
These beef and milk alternatives are seeking to ride on the coat tails of much-loved and trusted products.
While I'm debating the use of generic terms like 'milk' and 'beef' in labelling, the European Union has set its sights on stopping Australian cheesemakers from being able to use the term halloumi on their products.
The use of geographical indicators has already shaken up the wine industry by restricting the use of terms like champagne, while feta and parmesan cheese have also been raised as potential GI targets.
I can't help but wonder what might be in the firing line next. Maybe I'll stick to eating good old Australian tasty cheese - surely that will be safe!
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