One year ago, there was a scare within the community about imported berries being infected with hepatitis A. This prompted some manufacturers to introduce their own ‘Australian’ labelling. It also sparked the consideration for preparing new packaging that would have updated labels. The outbreak caused a great deal of publicity and calls for labels to easily identify the country of origin for the food products. The Australian Food and Grocery Council highlights that new labels are still to be approved by parliament. Food industry label changes are coming to Australia, a fact that many now see as inevitable.
This type of food labelling reform has been debated for quite some time, decades in fact. In order to try and come to considered outcome, there was a call for consultations with industry and consumer groups which closed at the end of last month. There has been wide support for this approach by government. Leading consumer group Choice have praised the approach that has been taken over the past year.
Gary Dawson from the Australian Food and Grocery Council said it was clear that change was inevitable. “No one should be in any doubt that the government’s determined to press ahead with this, that’s been clearly signalled,” he said. “They have had an open door in terms of listening to feedback and listening to the issues that have been raised around it. We certainly have pointed them to the fact that in many cases, companies are voluntarily providing way more than the mandated level of information. We’ve certainly argued there are market mechanisms already in this space, but no one’s under any illusions that it is coming.”
As a flow on effect from the hepatitis A scare last year, local industry is reporting that they are experiencing benefit from increased demand. While it is difficult to complete locally with the costs that these products can be produced overseas, some of the supermarkets are engaging with some of the bigger growers, said Australian Blueberry Growers Association president Greg McCulloch.
Food industry label changes