Thursday, 10 December 2020
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee; Government Response to Report
I present the government's response to the report of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee on its inquiry into the current requirements for labelling of seafood and seafood products, and I seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows—
Australian Government response to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report:
An inquiry into the current requirements for labelling of seafood and seafood products
The committee recommends that the exemption regarding country of origin labelling under Standard 1.2.11 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code for cooked or pre-prepared seafood sold by the foodservices sector be removed, subject to a transition period of no more than 12 months.
The Government notes this recommendation.
In 2016, the Australian Government implemented ambitious reforms to origin labelling requirements applying to food products sold through retail. The reforms give consumers clearer and more meaningful information about the origins of food they purchase in retail. Food grown, produced or made in Australia and sold in a retail setting will now be clearly identifiable through the iconic kangaroo in a triangle logo. The new labels became mandatory on 1 July 2018. Further information on the new origin labels is available at foodlabels.industry.gov.au.
As part of the reforms, origin labelling requirements were moved from Standard 1.2.11 in Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code into the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) with the full implementation of the Country of Origin Labelling Information Standard 2016 (Information Standard).
To ensure the Information Standard balanced consumers' origin information needs with regulatory costs to businesses, the Government maintained the longstandinga1a exemption of foodservicea2a from mandatory origin labelling. The exemption was maintained through agreement with the ministers of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs (CAF), consisting of all state and territory governments.
The longstanding exemption of foodservice from mandatory origin labelling does not mean origin information is unimportant in foodservice. Consumers' values and habits are constantly changing, and the way businesses operate is also evolving, so the balance struck by the reforms must be reassessed to ensure it remains appropriate. The Government committed to evaluate the 2016 Country of Origin Labelling reforms in 2020-21, and that will present an ideal opportunity to engage with consumers to understand their preferences and desires, and to determine whether any adjustment to the existing CoOL arrangements is warranted.
1 The exemption for food for immediate consumption was included in Standard 1.2.11 when it was first gazetted in December 2005.
2 Foodservice encompasses businesses selling food to the public for immediate consumption. The sector is comprised mainly of restaurants, caterers, canteens, takeaways, cafes, pubs, clubs, bistros, hotels, motels, fish and chip shops.