Horticulture peak industry body AUSVEG has urged fast food outlets to consider the recent request by Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud MP for them to adopt the new country of origin labelling system, and signaled that it’s time to have a larger conversation about the causes and effects of imported produce.

Minister Littleproud has written to fast food outlets inviting them to discuss voluntarily displaying country of origin information to tell consumers more about where their food comes from, with the Government planning to discuss the issue with the fast food industry ‘in the near future’.

The new Country of Origin Labelling laws came into effect on 1 July 2016, with the labels to become mandatory on all food products sold in retail stores from 1 July 2018. However, some food products are exempt, including food sold for immediate consumption at fast food outlets and cafes.

“Australian consumers prefer to purchase locally-grown food and they have a right to know where their food comes from. While the new country of origin labels provide more information to consumers about their food, the new system’s impact is lessened by not being applied equally across all food groups,” said AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside.

“The inconsistent, two-tiered approach to the new labelling is problematic for consumers, but if the fast food industry can get on board and agree to voluntarily display these labels on their food products, it would be a decisive affirmation of the right of Australian consumers to make more informed decisions about the food they buy.

“AUSVEG has been a vocal advocate for clearer Country of Origin Labelling and we hope that the fast food industry, and other industries which will be exempt from mandatory labelling, adopt the labelling so that consumers are able to make more informed purchasing decisions.”

Mr Whiteside also suggested that while it would always be a positive step to ensure consumers are better informed about their food, it was important to discuss other ways of supporting local shoppers in their desire to buy Australian.

“This is a good time to have a conversation about why our industry is so susceptible to competition from processing vegetable imports,” said Mr Whiteside.

“If our growers aren’t able to be cost-competitive with imported produce in an open market, and if this is driving food producers to look overseas for their ingredients, then all stakeholders need to consider how we can work together to help our growers supply Australian consumers with the locally-grown food they’re after.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Shaun Lindhe, AUSVEG National Manager – Communications
Phone: 03 9882 0277; Mobile: 0405 977 789; Email: shaun.lindhe@ausveg.com.au