Sometimes I am paralysed with indecision by a simple trip to the supermarket.
Buying a jar of pasta sauce involves trying to weigh up factors including price, food miles, health benefits, organic claims and whether the product is Australian-made.
The last part should be easy enough but sadly under Australian food labelling laws it’s impossible to determine the breakdown between ingredients and packaging when an item is labelled Australian-made.
The latest attempt to deal with the sorry state of Australian labelling laws is the announcement last week by the House of Representatives of a new inquiry into country of origin food labelling.
According to Melissa Monks, special counsel at King & Wood Mallesons, as the law currently stands, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code set out the minimum disclosure requirements for the supply of food, mandating that certain food products identify the country of origin of the ingredients and where applicable, the country in which food was processed.
The problem is a product can be labelled as “made in Australia” and then in the fine print you discover it is “made in Australia from imported and local ingredients”.
That’s exactly what brings on my frenzied label reading.
Then the only protection is from the Australian Consumer Law which prohibits misleading, deceptive or false representations about the country of origin of products.
It shouldn’t be this hard.
Why not follow the Greens’ proposal where using the label “Made of Australian ingredients” would require 90% of all ingredients in that product to be Australian, while “Grown in Australia” would require the whole product to be grown in Australia.
Even Clive Palmer, that most eccentric of billionaires turned politicians, has managed to come up with a seemingly sensible proposal for a coloured tag system to inform consumers as to the origin of the products they buy.
If more than 5% of the product, including packing, does not come from Australia, it would have a red tag and if an item has 95% or more of its content made in Australia then the Palmer United Party is be proposing a green or gold tag.
It certainly, makes a lot more sense than his other projects like his dinosaur theme park and plans to rebuild the Titanic.
This inquiry has been a long time coming but any improvements to labelling laws can only be a boon to Australian businesses.
It will also make my supermarket trip a whole lot more speedy.