In July last year, we wrote about the new Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 (Standard) that has from 1 July 2018 replaced former requirements under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
Under the new Standard, many foods are now required to feature new labels that are designed to convey more information about the product’s origin, in a manner that is easier for consumers to understand.
There has been a two year transition period to the new Standard, which ended 1 July 2018. Given this long transition period, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has indicated that it will now be actively seeking to enforce the new laws. In this respect, ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh has stated:
We’ve been providing guidance for businesses over the past two years about the new food labelling system, including how to apply and interpret the standard. We are now entering the compliance phase, where we are making sure businesses are presenting accurate information about country of origin to their customers.
As part of this enforcement role, the ACCC intends to conduct market surveillance checks on 10,000 food products to ensure that they are labelled in compliance with the Standard. In the event of non-compliance, the ACCC has the ability to issue infringement notices and fines, and seek court orders for injunctions, compensation or corrective advertising.
Incorrect product labelling could also constitute a false or misleading representation, in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law, if a food product’s origin is misrepresented.
Compliance with the Standard requires careful assessment of a number of matters, including:
- Whether a product is of a kind which must be labelled, and the manner in which that kind of food must be labelled;
- Whether a product can be said to be ‘Grown’, ‘Produced’, ‘Made’ or ‘Packed’ in Australia; and
- The proportions of Australian ingredients in a product, including where this may vary seasonally.
Our alert of 11 July 2017 provides further detail on these matters.
Any food producers or retailers unsure as to whether their products meet the new Standard should take urgent steps to ensure that these are made compliant as soon as possible.
HWL Ebsworth has considerable experience assisting businesses with product labelling requirements. Please contact a member of our team for further information on how we can assist you.
This article was written by Luke Dale, Partner and Daniel Kiley, Senior Associate.
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