“Australians want to support local producers, but the lack of information made available on the side of products makes this near impossible.”
This is the sentiment expressed by Steve Dargavel, State Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU). AMWU is calling for a stricter implementation of country of origin food labeling laws, as protests happened on Wednesday in Shepparton over job losses in the food industry.
“Currently, we Australian food producers and manufacturers are simply going out of business as companies prefer to import rather than back the local communities,” said Dargavel, quoted in a news release on the AMWU website.
“We all go into a supermarket and we have no idea where food is sourced from – the current labels are confusing, written in tiny print and the amount of Australian food is diminishing from our shelves.
“People want to buy Australian made, Australian food has a great reputation, but if we can’t properly label our food who knows where it is from.”
“We need to work with consumers if we want to protect these jobs.”
According to the Queensland Health website, nearly all food for sale in Australia must contain certain information to help consumers make informed choices about food. Information such as nutritional value, ingredient listing, percentage labeling, declaration of allergens and food identification are covered by food labeling requirements.
Just last month a bipartisan Senate committee recommended that the Competition and Consumer Act should not be passed after it found out that the proposed “Made in Australia” labeling system will not contribute substantially to helping consumers choose between home-grown and imported raw products.
Under that bill, a product that undergoes substantial transformation in Australia, with 50 per cent of the cost of production originating in the country, can be labeled “Made in Australia”.
The committee rejected the bill and thus recommended that the government should consider developing a more effective country of origin (CoOL) framework (including a more effective definition of ‘substantially transformed’), which better balances the interests of consumers, primary producers and manufacturers.
The recommendation was supported by various organisations, including the Australian Made Campaign.
Meanwhile, Dargavel says that the current situation of food labeling laws in the industry puts farmers, growers and manufacturing workers at risk because companies continue to support imported food to cut down on costs.
“With the imposing high Australian dollar, we need to get everything right to ensure we protect Australian jobs. The common sense way to do this is to empower consumers,” says Dargavel.
“Australia’s ability to produce our own food is in our national interest. But if we keep going the way we are, we’re going to keep losing jobs, skills and food producing regions.”
He says that food production is being controlled by the interests of the two major supermarket chains.
“The people of Shepparton have had enough. These are the people directly under the gun.”
“That’s why we’re joining them in this rally. To stand up for local jobs.”