Unpackaged beef, sheep and chicken meat could soon be required to have country of origin labelling. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has approved a proposal to extend country of origin labelling to some unpackaged meats.
Food regulation ministers have been notified of the decision and have 60 days to seek a review. If no ministers seek a review, the decision will become law in Australian states and territories. There will be a six-month implementation period once the change is gazetted.
The Australian Government asked FSANZ to address an inconsistency in country of origin labelling requirements for unpackaged meat after the rules for beef imports were changed in 2010, said FSANZ CEO Steve McCutcheon.
FSANZ was also asked by food regulation ministers to continue this work following the recommendations of an independent review of food labelling headed by Dr Neal Blewett.
“Research indicates country of origin information is important to consumers and is valued more in fresh food products such as fresh meat than other food categories,” McCutcheon said. “Mandating additional country of origin labelling requirements will ensure consumers are provided with access to this information consistently across the retail sector.”
Many retailers already label products voluntarily, McCutcheon said, so the cost to industry as a result of the change is unlikely to be large.
FSANZ said that beef imports have accounted for around 0.5% of beef consumption, while sheep imports accounted for 0.2% of consumption in recent years. Due to quarantine restrictions, Australia does not import any fresh chicken meat.