Reforms to Australian Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) laws can be successfully implemented and should not be influenced by the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) decision declaring that America’s CoOL system violates international law, according to national peak vegetable body AUSVEG.       

“The recent ruling by the WTO should not affect the implementation and enforcement of stricter CoOL laws in Australia, given there are numerous examples of other major world economies implementing CoOL systems without incident,” said AUSVEG Deputy CEO Andrew White.

“The American CoOL system has been subject to challenge not only because of its complexity, which is one of the factors that has led to the WTO decision, but also because of political factors.”

“The European Union, on the other hand, is a massive player on the world stage, and has in place CoOL systems of varying types for various food commodities which have not been subject to the legal challenges we have seen applied to the American system.”

“We are calling on the Government to continue its push for stricter CoOL laws. A simple and informative system implemented in Australia should not be subject to the same international legal challenges as the US system, and will give the public the ability to easily discern the country of origin of the products they purchase.”

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.

AUSVEG has long been a vocal advocate for stricter CoOL laws to replace the current labelling system, and has previously called for a front-of-pack label indicating the country of origin of characterising ingredients, text that indicates country of origin to be 40 per cent larger than surrounding text, and a representative diagram to identify the proportion of the product that is composed of Australian ingredients.

“CoOL systems have been implemented in other countries that have not been subject to the same level of legal scrutiny as the US system, proving that there is scope for comprehensive CoOL laws to be applied without being challenged,” said Mr White.

“Australian consumers overwhelmingly want to see improvements to the current system, with a CHOICE consumer survey conducted last year indicating that 85 per cent of respondents believe it was crucial or very important for them to be able to identify if the food they buy has been grown in Australia.”

“Elements of the Australian food industry, who have been working for years to prevent a meaningful CoOL system being implemented, should not be allowed to get away with using this ruling to suggest that international trade obligations are a barrier to better laws that provide Australian consumers with clarity about where the food they are buying comes from,” said Mr White.

“Recent political progress into CoOL reforms must not be lost because a different system in another country, which is more complex and has few similarities to the changes we want, has been successfully challenged at the WTO.”


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