The Australian Government will ensure consumers have access to clear, consistent and easy-to-understand Country of Origin food labelling (CoOL) through changes that will allow for more informed choices, according to a Government working group.

But Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Kate Carnell said that changing the product labelling rules relating to country of origin will do nothing to improve consumer safety and could harm Australian producers.

The group is made up of the Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane, Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson and Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash.

“The Government will work with industry groups to ensure the changes are practical, but the intention is to implement both an image and words that can be clearly read and understood,” Mr Macfarlane said.

The Government will also consider its response to the recent House of Representatives Committee inquiry into country of origin food labelling.

CEO of the Australian Food & Grocery Council Gary Dawson said that the AFGC wanted more clarity on how this would apply to imports, particularly from competitors like New Zealand where a lot of food processing has shifted because of the lower cost structure.

He said it was important not to overlook the value of food made in Australia.

The ACCI’s Kate Carnell warned that if we are not careful, we will end up with multiple, inconsistent systems for determining a product’s country of origin, leading to extra costs for business and consumers but no better outcome on product safety.

“Under the international rules, the key factor in determining where a product is made is where it undertakes it ‘last substantial transformation’. This is the process by which Swiss chocolates can be called Swiss even though Switzerland has no cocoa trees,” she said.

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