1531708119692 - Country of origin proposal scaled back

Country of origin proposal scaled back

Two weeks before the deadline for public submissions on mandatory country of origin labelling, a pared-back version of the proposed law has been released.

The select committee considering the Consumers Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill has recommended limiting labelling rules to some fresh and frozen and minimally produced goods.

In its original form, the bill would have covered all single ingredient foods but the Primary Production Committee now says it will only cover single types of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish or seafood which have been minimally processed.

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Foods like fresh tomatoes, frozen sliced beans and minced beef would require country of origin labels.

However, nuts, seeds and grains, tinned fruit and vegetables, mixed frozen vegetables, crumbed fish fillets, marinated meats, dried fruit, and cured meats would not.

While the draft version of the bill said the law would apply to fresh seafood, including prawns, shrimps, crabs, shellfish, cut fish, filleted fish, and seafood that had undergone any other processing, that clause was deleted from the revised document.

Fresh and frozen meat, whole or cut, including meat that was preserved in any way, had also been deleted.

The rules would apply to food sold by food retailers, both in store and online.  They would not apply wholesalers, fundraisers, restaurants, cafes, takeaways, caterers and other places where food was for immediate consumption.

Foods would need to be labelled with the country or place where they were grown. That could mean where the food was harvested, caught or raised, but not where the food was merely packaged, manufactured or processed.

The definitions of foods, what it meant for a food to be ‘minimally processed’, and requirements for the information was given would be set out in the regulations after the bill was passed. 

Country of origin labelling was meant to come into force six months after passing into law but there would now be an 18-month deadline for regulations to be put in place.

The new labels would then be phased in over six months for fresh food and two years for frozen foods.

Public submissions on the proposed bill, introduced by former Green MP Steffan Browning and passed on to Gareth Hughes when Browning resigned, close on August 1.