- Most food sold in Australia must be labelled with its country of origin. This must follow the rules set out in an information standard.
- For foods that require country of origin labelling, the requirements will depend on whether the food is classified as a priority food or a non-priority food.
- We have detailed guidance to help businesses comply.
What the ACCC does
- We educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities.
- We accept reports where people consider a business is doing something they shouldn’t do. We use those reports to inform our education, compliance and enforcement work.
- If a business breaks the rules about country of origin food labelling, we can investigate and may take some form of compliance or enforcement action.
What the ACCC doesn't do
- We don’t resolve individual disputes about country of origin food labelling.
- We don’t manage country of origin food labelling policy.
The Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 (Food Labelling Standard) requires most foods offered for retail sale to have information on the country where the food was grown, produced or made.
Most packaged food must have a country of origin label if it is sold in a retail setting such as a supermarket, local store or market, online or from a vending machine.
Country of origin information is also required for some unpackaged foods when sold in a retail setting. This includes:
- fish and most meat, or
- a mix of these foods.
This information should accompany the food, for example, on a sign next to the product in-store.
Country of origin labels are not required on food in certain circumstances. This includes food bought from:
- take-away shops
Businesses may still choose to provide country of origin information in these circumstances. However, if a business wishes to use the kangaroo logo or bar chart, the use of these graphics must follow the Food Labelling Standard.
Whether or not a business is required to follow the Food Labelling Standard, country of origin claims about food must be true, accurate and based on reasonable grounds.
A business is unlikely to be making misleading claims if its country of origin labelling fully complies with the Food Labelling Standard. If an allegation is made that a business has breached the Australian Consumer Law by making a country of origin claim, the business can rely on an automatic defence (known as a ‘safe harbour’) if it has complied with the Food Labelling Standard. However, if a package displays extra images or representations that create an overall misleading impression, the business could be at risk of breaching the Australian Consumer Law and penalties may apply.
Our Country of origin food labelling guide has further details on the types of food that require a country of origin label.
For foods that require country of origin labelling, the type of labelling required depends on:
- whether the food is grown, produced, made or packed in Australia or another country
- whether the food is considered non-priority or priority.
Businesses should understand the differences between ‘grown in’, ‘produced in’, ‘made in’ and ‘packed in’ claims when labelling products. See Country of origin claims for further information.
Foods that require country of origin labelling have different labelling requirements depending on whether they are classified as priority or non-priority foods.
Foods that require country of origin labelling are considered priority foods unless they fall in one of the non-priority food categories.
Non-priority food categories include:
- tea and coffee
- biscuits and snack food
- bottled water
- soft drinks and sports drinks
These non-priority foods only require a text statement about where the food was grown, produced, made or packed.
Examples of foods that fall within the non-priority food category, and foods that are specifically excluded from the non-priority food category, are set out in the Food Labelling Standard.
All foods other than non-priority foods are considered priority foods. Priority foods include:
- fruit and vegetables
The Food Labelling Standard has three general formats for country of origin food labelling.
Three component standard mark – a graphic and text-based label which is mandatory for priority food items grown, produced or made in Australia. The label includes:
Two component standard mark – a graphic and text-based label which is mandatory for most priority food items packed in Australia. It may also be used for imported foods to show they contain Australian ingredients. The label includes:
If a priority food was packed in Australia but does not meet the requirements to be labelled as grown, produced or made in Australia, then it cannot carry the kangaroo logo.
Country of origin statement – a text-only label is used for non-priority food items. Imported priority foods must also carry a country of origin statement in a clearly defined box (a box is not required if the food is unpackaged).
The ACCC and other Australian Consumer Law regulators have the power to call on businesses to substantiate the country of origin claims made on their labels.
Where we identify possible non-compliance with the Food Labelling Standard we will take the surrounding circumstances into account. For example, we will generally distinguish between genuine efforts by a business to comply, and a business that deliberately breaches the requirements in the Food Labelling Standard or makes false or misleading origin claims. We are unlikely to take enforcement action where a business has attempted to follow the requirements, is responsive to our concerns and agrees to timely remediation.
We will look to resolve many matters by communicating with businesses to seek changes to address non-compliance. Where stronger action is needed, we will escalate matters for an enforcement approach in line with the principles set out in our Compliance and Enforcement Policy.
We are more likely to take enforcement action where:
- businesses fail to respond to our concerns or choose not to take steps to mitigate compliance failures, or
- the issues go beyond a failure to follow labelling requirements and involve claims or labelling that is likely to mislead consumers.
In addition, we are more likely to take action where such behaviour is undertaken by large or national traders and impacts a large number of consumers.
Our Country of origin food labelling guide has further details and examples of country of origin food labelling requirements for businesses.
Country of origin food labelling information is also available on business.gov.au.
A visual style guide is available to assist businesses to correctly design and display their country of origin food labels as required by the Food Labelling Standard.
An online decision tool is also available to assist businesses to generate downloadable labels for free. Use of the tool is voluntary and businesses must take care to ensure that they follow the Food Labelling Standard when using these labels.
Our other resources on country of origin food labelling include a:
- factsheet for businesses in several languages
- factsheet for the dairy industry
- consumer information sign for businesses to display in-store to help inform their customers about the Food Labelling Standard.
Anyone can make an enquiry or report failures to comply with country of origin food labelling requirements, and misleading claims about where food comes from.
We use this information to identify issues that may need investigation and potential compliance or enforcement action.
Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 (Food Labelling Standard)