The government tabled its response to the report’s first recommendation in the Senate on 10 December 2020.
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 longstanding exemption of foodservice 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 arrangements is warranted.