Country of origin food labelling

If you sell or supply food for retail sale in stores, markets, online or from vending machines it is likely that you will be required to comply with the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 (Standard).

Types of food covered by the standard

The Standard applies to most food offered for retail sale in Australia (e.g. food sold to the public in stores or markets, online or from vending machines) if it is:

  • in a package or
  • unpackaged seafood, particular meats, fruit and vegetables, nuts, spices, herbs, fungi, legumes, seeds or a mix of these foods.

The Standard does not apply to food that is:

  • otherwise unpackaged (e.g. unpackaged cheese, pastries or sandwiches)
  • only intended for export to overseas markets
  • sold by restaurants, canteens, schools, caterers, self-catering institutions, prisons, hospitals, medical institutions and at fund-raising events (e.g. a cake stall at a school fete)
  • made and packaged on the same premises where it is sold (e.g. bread in a bakery)
  • delivered and packaged ready for consumption, as ordered by the consumer (e.g. home delivered pizza)
  • for special medical purposes
  • not for human consumption (e.g. pet food).

See: Country of Origin food labeling guide

Tip

Logo showing kangaroo inside triangle to indicate country of origin
Businesses may voluntarily choose to provide country of origin information for food that is exempt from the Standard, provided it is not false or misleading.

However, if a business wishes to use the kangaroo logo or the bar chart on food products to be sold in Australia, they will be required to comply with the Standard regarding the use of those graphics.

Label requirements

The labelling requirements for a food item will vary depending on whether the food:

  • is a priority or non-priority food
  • was grown, produced, made or packed in Australia or another country.

Priority and non-priority food

It is important that businesses understand these key terms so that they can make accurate claims about their products.

There are seven non-priority food categories:

  • seasonings;
  • confectionary;
  • biscuits and snack food;
  • bottled water;
  • soft drinks and sports drinks;
  • tea and coffee; and
  • alcoholic beverages.

All other foods (e.g. meats, fruit and vegetables, bread and dairy products) will be priority foods.

Key claims

  • A claim that a good was ‘grown in’ a particular country is generally used for fresh food (e.g. fruit and vegetables) and means that that food was in fact grown in the country claimed. Foods with multiple ingredients can also claim to have been ‘grown’ in a specified country, as long as all significant ingredients are from that country and virtually all processing occurred in that country.
  • Claiming that a good is the ‘product of’ a specified country means that all significant ingredients in the food as from the specified country and virtually all processing has been done in that country. This claim is commonly used for both fresh and processed foods.
  • The ‘made in’ claim means that food underwent its last substantial transformation in the country specified (this doesn’t necessarily mean that any ingredients are from that country). Certain processing such as slicing, canning, freezing, coating or repacking food will be insufficient to justify a ‘made in’ claim.
  • Depending on the circumstances, the Standard may require, or permit, a food to be labelled with information about where it was packaged. A food that cannot claim to have been grown, produced or made in a particular country will only be able to make a ‘packed in’ claim.

An online decision tool developed by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science is available to assist businesses to determine whether they need to display a country of origin label on their food products and to generate downloadable labels. Use of the tool is voluntary and businesses must take care to ensure that, for any labels generated, the business is complying with the Standard regarding the use of that label.

The labels

The Standard sets out three possible country of origin labels for food, each with its own mandatory text requirements:

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:

  • the kangaroo in a triangle symbol so you can easily and quickly identify the food’s Australian origin
  • the minimum proportion, by ingoing weight, of Australian ingredients, indicated by a percentage amount and shown in a bar chart
  • a statement indicating what percentage of the food was grown or produced in Australia

Three component label

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 priority foods that contain Australian ingredients. The label includes:

  • the minimum proportion, by ingoing weight, of Australian ingredients, indicated by a percentage amount and shown in a bar chart
  • a statement indicating what percentage of the food was grown or produced in Australia

The bar chart indicates what percentage of the product is Australian made, and the explanatory text spells this out in simple terms.

Country of origin statement – a text-only label which is used for non-priority food items. Imported priority foods must also, as a minimum, carry a country of origin statement in a clearly defined box.

 

The country of origin statement indicates where the product was made

If you have an enquiry

Contact the ACCC

More information

Advertising and selling
Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Food labeling guide
Country of origin claims
Food labelling FAQs
Country of origin food labeling factsheet
Business.gov.au Country of origin food labelling
Country of origin claims & the Australian Consumer Law

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