Is Country of Origin labelling important to you?

The government is currently reviewing Australia’s Country of Origin food labelling system. CHOICE is making a submission to the review on behalf of consumers and I’d love to include your thoughts.

Back in 2015, CHOICE supporters helped secure the country of origin labels you see in supermarkets today. More than 22,000 passionate supporters joined with CHOICE to pressure the government for clear labels that show where our food is made – and we won! If you like the system and want it to be improved further, make your voice heard now by filling in this short survey.


I completed it the other day but what I would like to see added are details of where foriegn ingredients, especially the main ingredient, is from.

At present all that is shown if the product is not from a single foriegn source is “imported” or “a mix of local & imported ingredients”.

I don’t want to but something that is primarily from China, Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand, especially seafood or berry products.

I buy OOB Organic Berry products for my wife to make her smoothies for breakfast and I would never touch Creative Gourmet products after the fiascos with their berries from China.


I see that Q6 of the survey states:

Currently, country of origin labelling only applies to certain categories of products like fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, bread, juice, milk, honey, nuts and cereal. It doesn’t apply to products such as confectionery, biscuits, snack foods, or alcohol, soft drinks and tea and coffee. Do you think country of origin labelling should be extended to apply to items such as snack foods and soft drinks?

I wonder if Choice should also be pushing for Country of Origin labelling on all products sold to the consumer. Thus extending labelling further than groceries to other consumer goods such as furniture, electrical goods, etc which don’t have any such information displayed at the point of sale.


Absolutely agree, furniture being a big one for many.


It should apply to all consumer products.

Currently some brands appear to have too much room to game the system. We also need a more effective and transparent way to call out and enforce action on dodgy labelling. I’m looking at products such as olives and pork that come with the Aussie label and comments such as made from local and imported ingredients when the core ingredient is not Australian.

Can we have a very different symbol with zero Aussie icons for “imported product - repackaged in Australia” scenarios?

The other dodgy practice is Australian symbolism announcing the brand owner ‘Proudly an Australian Company’. Careful inspection of the fine print or symbols often reveals such proud promotion is necessary to disguise a wholly or substantially imported product.

Cynically ‘Proudly Australian’ does not preclude the product from going through a middle man locally or off shore to minimise local profits/taxation. We only see the last pair of hands, not the source or any intermediaries in the supply chain. I would not expect our legislation and regulators to reliably prevent such practices. Knowing simply the truth about the real source of a product should be enough for an informed decision. Note that imported product EG ‘product of Thailand, Indonesia etc’, does not reliably inform who supplied a product. Importers can change suppliers at will.


Just went to open a jar of a well known jam . It informs that it is " Made in Australia from at least 61% Australian ingredients "

I would really like to know where the other 39% of ingredients originated .The excuse that there is not enough space on the label does not cut it with me as it seems to be no problem finding space on the label when they are pushing their own wheel barrow about their products . They seem to find space for that .


Buy Beerenberg! It’s fruit may be sourced, at times, out of South Australia - but it is a fully Oz product…


It would be a huge ask for them to label each jar with where the specific percent contents came from, when it could have been sourced from one or more of many countries.

As a practical matter how helpful is it to know those 39% came from one or more of:
China, New Zealand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Turkey, UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Greece, or South Africa, as compared to being local? Some origins may be acceptable to a consumer and others not so much, but how does one tell for the jar in hand?

I doubt processors are equipped to quarantine production for explicit labelling as new lots or raw ingredients come in. Labels could be (simplistically) ink jet printed to suit but at what cost when that might require them to stop production, clean out the China content and wash down the line, prior to starting with the New Zealand content, and on it goes as ingredients arrive from the ports.

If you are not concerned with the stopping, washing, and starting, back to the list of possible countries of origin, and what would a long list tell one in a practical sense? Would a specific jar labelled 61% Australia, 39% New Zealand, may contain traces from (eg) China and Vietnam (the previous two import sources where residue may have been on the machinery) suffice?


We have been buying Sunwseet Amazin Prunes for years.

The packets originally boasted about their unique pitting method and the fact that it was 100% US product.

They later stated that they were made from US and Australian prunes.

The packs now state “Packed in the USA fron Local and Imported ingredients” despite also stating “Product of USA” and “100% Fruit”.

Prunes mported from where?

I also looked at a product which I don’t recall in Coles the other day which was from somewhere in Asia which stated “Packed in ??? from imported ingredients”.



Let’s start with the basics.

Is Country of Origin labelling important to you?


Exactly. When they source whatever is cheapest (or just available) at the current time, it would be impossible to label correctly, given the need to print the labels in bulk in advance and then marry labels to jars.

I believe the end game is … each lot / batch has locked down ingredients and COO, the label is overprinted with the lot number / batch number (just as happens with the best before / use by date), then you use your smartphone app to interrogate the ‘internet’ to get the ingredients and COO for that lot / batch. But:

  • Who will be bothered with that? It’s a lot of work for the manufacturer if only a tiny percentage of consumers bother to access that level of detail.
  • What price in privacy are you paying for using that smartphone app (or even if it’s just a web site)?

How are the percentages to be apportioned? By mass? volume? value? profit? “Any reasonable methodology”?

Imagine, back in the days when cars were manufactured in Australia, it’s not as if the car is necessarily entirely 100% a product of Australia.

Maybe there’s some rare earth element used in some niche part of the electronics that is low in mass but high in value. That applies to many advanced electronic goods.

This might seem like nitpicking but the law runs on nitpicking.


I wonder what the 39% is which is foreign component …is the fruit? If it is the fruit, which is the main ingredient which makes a jam, then it does give the false impression that the jam is majority Australian (just the fruit isn’t and maybe the sugar, gelatin and water is).


With the advent of RFID identification, where product’s contents come from could be automated, and laser printed at high speed onto preprinted labels. Where there’s a will there’s a way! And yes, it may cost processors to put in the extra equipment, but when amortized across all the throughput, it could amound to a fraction of a cent.

In these days of COVID and the possibility of the virus being tramsmitted via chilled/frozen food, I am increasingly interested in knowing EXACTLY where food is coming from.


Couldn’t agree more @meltam

Some time ago I called a well known jam company to ask where the ‘imported ingredients’ where actually from, and they could only say that: ‘They were sourced according to availability’.

Not good enough!


To be fair in some cases they can only answer at a given point in time. Where they got the ingredients from yesterday may not be where they get them from tomorrow. This is a real practical problem with the desire to label all components. I think it a little extreme to expect manufacturers to change their label with every batch of jam.

Would it be acceptable to say foreign ingredients were sourced from among the following countries; a, b, c, d, e … ? What would that achieve? If that is not good enough how will it be done?


For some products there is a clear precedent. Wine might not always be concise. I suspect policing product labeling is in the industries best interests. Even if it is a humble cask the origins of the contents have some clarity.

The same cannot be said for other products. Perhaps the Aussie content labelling needs to be licensed and enforced? Only products that meet a certain standard of independent assessment get to use the label.

All other products should be mandated to use a very different label that displays the up to percentage of foreign content, added Aussie water etc excluded from the measure. :thinking: National flag of the most significant foreign supply optional.

Although all of this is optional when we move to online ordering as the norm and the basket can list the relevant details for the batch number of the stock we will be supplied, if acceptable. Computers never lie, Right? :roll_eyes:


My main concern is sewage sludge used as fertiliser, which may contain pathogens, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and hazchem,
and which may not be strictly monitored in some countries.


Unless they are forced by law to be able to answer that question then it is good enough as such.

… and if it’s all just being thrown into a hopper for pre-processing before becoming the actual ingredient, yesterday’s supply may not even be kept separate from today’s supply.

The assumption in what I posted yesterday is that on any change of supplier, a new batch would have to be started and the production line completely stopped, for emptying and perhaps even cleaning.

Is that realistic? Probably not.

At a certain point, you - as the consumer - may be better off avoiding processed / value-added foods. That’s probably healthier, probably cheaper - and you have some chance of knowing the origin of your foods.


Looking forward to change in favour of the consumer, in the country of origin labels on all food products.


Most countries, including Australia, use biosolids (the correct name for the fertiliser) in agricultural production.

There are other inputs to agricultural production which pose much greater risk than biosolids. These include animal wastes, use of unregistered chemicals etc…which are often used uncontrolled and can contaminate foods, especially those sold and aren’t managed under a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.


In many cases that is not practical. Using the example of jam, not everybody has the skill or time to make their own. Even if you do unless you grow your own fruit it is likely to be rather expensive in comparison to commercial stuff. This is one that I do but many cannot.

Quitting commercial makers would rule out some food products altogether for most people. Olives, which are hard to come by untreated and take much treatment to make them edible. Cheese and yogurt I cannot do without.

Giving up charcuterie, antepasto etc or only having what I can make myself would reduce my quality of life.