According to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, Australian businesses must not provide any information to consumers that can be construed as being misleading, false or deceptive.
This especially applies to food labels. There is always controversy amongst suppliers of food to consumers through supermarkets and other retail outlets. The two big issues for suppliers of food are these.
Firstly, the ingredients must be accurate so that consumers with allergy to certain food products can be warned and secondly, consumers have a desire to know where the food comes from and this is the responsibility of the food label to explain this clearly.
In particular, growers and manufacturers are subject to the Food Standards Code which consists of four main chapters.
The first chapter under the heading, “General Food Standards” has the following applications for your printed labels as follows:
- Your label must identify the actual food being presented for sale.
- The name and address of the supplier are also required.
- The ingredients including food additives must be listed.
- The food must be date marked.
- Directions for use and storage of food.
- Nutritional information including average energy content.
- Include percentages of ingredients and components of food.
- Country of origin for packaged food and some unpackaged food.
Point 8 is the most contentious of these labelling laws and attracts the most scrutiny from the media and also the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The following is a direct quote from this web page: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2013L00051
Food “must be labelled with a statement on or in connection with the display of the food which –
(a) identifies the country or countries of origin of the food; or
(b) indicates that the food is a mix of local and imported foods; or
(c) indicates that the food is a mix of imported foods.”
The first chapter is the most relevant chapter in terms of what is required for food labelling. The above is only a summary and exceptions apply. There are different rules for packaged food and unpackaged food such as fruit and vegetables provided loosely. Also, there are different rules for food provided to restaurants and other food outlets. For more information on some of these exceptions to food labelling laws, refer to this blog. http://www.rentonslabels.com.au/food-labels/
The above information is meant as a guide only and is only a very brief summary. Legal advice should be sought before you begin to package and label your food.
As consumers of food, we really must be grateful to the authorities as they do provide an environment which allows the consumers to be confident that they are eating food which is safe. Of course, there is a lot of regulation in the legal documents mentioned above but it really is essential that food labelling errs on the side of being too tough rather than too lenient. In fact, this stance actually protects those food manufacturers that are doing the right thing in labelling their food products accurately.