The Australian Made Campaign appeared before the Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport last week to address issues related to importing beef into Australia.
Major issues addressed at the hearing included the adequacy of current labelling laws in enabling consumers to make informed decisions about the meat they consume, and the health and safety implications of importing beef products from disease-affected countries.
“In the case of beef, there is strong and justifiable concern about possible contamination of imported meat by diseases such as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), and the consequent dangers to human health,” Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison said.
Australian Made urged the Senate Committee to be resolute in its dealing with import regulations because of the critical importance of maintaining Australia’s clean, green environment and high health and safety standards.
“Research clearly shows that consumers have a strong preference for the fresh and processed food they buy to be Australian, and that is largely to do with the confidence consumers have in those standards” Mr Harrison said.
“It is Australian Made’s position that all food products should be required to carry a country of origin claim.”
The revised food standard which comes into effect in July 2013 extends compulsory country-of-origin labelling for unpackaged foods to beef, veal, lamb, hogget, mutton and chicken.
“While we welcome the changes to the standard as a major step forward, it would have been better to have simply extended it to cover all meat, (as well as all seafood, fruit and vegetables), including less common meats such as horse, rabbit, crocodile, kangaroo; or various types of poultry, such as duck, turkey and quail,” Mr Harrison said.
“Australian Made believes that the interests of businesses and consumers alike are best served by consistent and easy to understand labelling laws.”
With respect to processed meat products, Australian Made again called for the definition of ‘substantial transformation’ to be restricted so that it is more difficult for products with high imported content and minimal processing to pass themselves off as Australian.
“At present, the rules for using the Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) logo on food products are more stringent than the rules applied by the ACCC for products to be described as ‘Australian Made’ or ‘Made in Australia’,” Mr Harrison said.
“Being able to describe their products as Australian is an advantage in the market place for Australia’s manufacturers and producers. The Government should be seeking to strengthen this advantage by building greater consumer confidence into the labelling laws for ‘Made in Australia’ claims.
The green-and-gold Australian Made, Australian Grown logo is the registered certification trade mark (CTM) that labels a product as authentically made or grown in Australia. The logo was introduced by the federal Government in 1986 as a CTM across all 34 classes of goods, including fresh meat.