Last week, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and the Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce announced proposed new laws for food labels.
These are to be known as COOL – Country of Origin Laws.
Basically, it means that your food labels must show via a pie chart or bar chart, the approximate percentage of local and imported ingredients. Also, your labels will state whether more than half or less than half of the ingredients are made up from local or imported ingredients. Examples of these labels are shown below.
In his article on July 26, Greg Earl from the Australian Financial Review, stated that the federal government was confident in overcoming any legal challenges by importers who may see the laws as discriminatory.
According to Greg Earl,
“The government says it is confident that the country of origin laws announced last week meet Australia’s requirements under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in trade agreements, which allow foreign companies to seek redress for discrimination.”
(Reference – http://www.afr.com/business/manufacturing/food-labelling-laws-face-trade-law-questions-20150724-gijp12)
One problem for food manufacturers is the time of the year. Sometimes imported ingredients are brought in to cover for seasonal shortages. As the proposed law stands at present, you would need at least two different food labels to cover for this situation.
Gary Dawson, CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council was cautious in his support for the proposed new labelling laws and commented especially on seasonal issues in his press release of July 21, 2015.
“It will be important for the Government, during the implementation phase, to understand the cost, complexity and additional red tape that these changes will impose, with the burden falling hardest on small business and those companies affected by seasonal variations in their sourcing.”
(Reference – https://www.afgc.org.au/2015/07/new-country-of-origin-labelling-rules-recognise-importance-of-australian-jobs/)
For food manufacturers, it is time to think about these new laws but it is too early to get any food labels printed. The legislation is yet to be tabled in parliament. If it does go through, then there will be time to get all of the printed labels you need as the legislation is not likely to come into effect until late in 2016.
In the meantime, it is worth noting the current laws governing food labels.