IN SPITE of strong moves in Australia and from some New Zealand factions, it seems unlikely that there will be any immediate developments in the area of Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL). In fact the current approach by the food industry is generally supported - a voluntary system that provides a huge amount of information for consumers.

Food & Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said there had been no recent feedback on suggestions for change from members and there had been no suggestion that the industry needed more regulation in this area.“Calls to our members on this issue have been few and far between and this is probably because consumers can set foot in any supermarket around the country and see a huge number of products with accurate information about country of origin,” she said.

Both Foodstuffs and Countdown have worked extremely hard to implement excellent country of origin labelling in key areas. “We have seen increased discussion in Australia where some industry groups have used the recent Nanna’s recall to call for more regulation but it would be irresponsible to use the recall of one product as the basis for any legislative reform.

“The response to the recall has been close to hysterical particularly when there has been no compelling evidence to show those berries were the culprits in the hepatitis outbreak in the first place. Some of the groups in Australia using the incident to call for labelling changes were being opportunistic,” said Katherine Rich.

There is now strong comment in Australia that changing the product labelling rules would do nothing to improve consumer safety and that enforcement on imported products could well contradict free trade rules.