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Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Food Labelling) Bill 2012 (No. 2)

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2010-2011-2012

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

THE SENATE

 

 

 

Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Food Labelling) Bill 2012

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator Milne)

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Food Labelling) Bill 2012

 

Outline

 

The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Food Labelling) Bill 2012 implements important reforms to the designation and regulation of country of origin labelling for food in Australia.

 

It is widely recognised that Australia’s current country of origin labelling requirements for food are unsatisfactory and result in information that confuses and misleads consumers. This was confirmed by the independent review of food labelling law and policy, chaired by Dr Neal Blewett, in its report Labelling Logic (2011) [1]  

 

There are two key parts to the amendments put forward in this bill. The first enacts Recommendation 41 of the Blewett Review, by creating a specific section in the Competition and Consumer Act that deal solely with country or origin claims with regard to food.

 

It ceases the treatment of food as just any other good; and creates a single regulatory regime, retaining mandatory labelling requirements but superseding country of origin labelling from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1995 .

 

The second part of this bill enacts Recommendation 42 of the Blewett Review, that country of origin labelling for food should be based on the ingoing weight of the ingredients and components, excluding water. This codifies the desire of Australians to know the origin of the food they are buying first and foremost, not where any processing and packaging took place.

 

The bill removes the ability to make the stand-alone claim ‘Made in Australia’ about food, and provides unambiguous language and benchmarks. Food grown in Australia, as it can now, will be able to state exactly that on labelling. Processed food comprising 90% or more Australian ingredients by total weight excluding water will be labelled “Made of Australian ingredients”. This will establish an easy to understand transparent premium claim that will allow Australians to finally make informed purchasing decisions.

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1 - Short Title

 

This is a formal provision specifying the short title.

 

Clause 2 - Commencement

 

The bill's provisions are to commence on 1 January 2014.

 

Clause 3 - Schedules

 

This clause provides that an Act that is specified in a Schedule in amended or repealed as set out in that Schedule, and any other item in a Schedule operates according to its terms.

 

 



 

 

Schedule 1 - Amendments to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010

 

Item 1

 

Item 1 inserts a new additional section 137A (1) into the Act to create specific requirements for country of origin labelling for food.

 

Item 2

 

Item 2 inserts a definition for food to mirror the same definition applied in the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991.

 

Item 3

 

Item 3 inserts a new Part 3-4A - Country of origin labelling requirements for food comprising of new sections 137A, 137B and 137C.

 

Section 137A specifies new country of origin labelling requirements for particular kinds of food in tabular form, including explanatory notes for terms used in the table. It stipulates that:

·          Packaged food where the total weight (excluding water) of 90% or more is comprised of Australian-grown components, there must be a statement on the package that the food is “made of Australian ingredients”; and precludes the use of this label for those packaged foods below the 90% weight (excluding water) content threshold.

·          “Made in Australia” cannot be used to label foods partly or wholly grown or produced in Australia.

·          Unpackaged fresh food must identify the country of origin where the food was grown.

 

Section 137B is concerned with the relationship of this bill to other labelling requirements. It specifies that the new country of origin labelling requirements for food prevail over existing requirements under the Food Standards Australian New Zealand Act 1991 and Trade Marks Act 1995 and details exemptions relating to the Wine Australia Corporation Act 1980.

 

Section 137C creates new civil penalty provisions in respect of contraventions of the new food labelling requirements, and incorporates exemptions from such penalties for food that is supplied or intended to be supplied for immediate consumption and particular institutions such as restaurants and state facilities.

 

Items 4 and 5

 

Item 4 comprises of new Part 4-4A and new section 204A, which details new criminal penalties for not complying with food labelling requirements relating to country of origin. These penalties are consistent with penalties for other contraventions of information standards covered by the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

 

Item 5 is consequential on Item 4.

 

Items 6 and 7

 

Item 6 amends Section 210. It extends existing defences in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 involving goods acquired for the purpose of re-supply to the food labelling requirements offence in Section 204A. Item 7 is a consequential amendment to a note to ensure it references Section 204A.

 



 

 

Items 8 and 9

 

Items 8 and 9 amend Section 224 to apply pecuniary penalties for contravention of Section 137C, and apply the same amount as apply to other contraventions of information standards in the Act.

 

Item 10

Item 10 amends Section 248 to enable a court to disqualify a person from managing corporations for a period if the court is satisfied that the person has contravened, attempted to contravene or been involved in a contravention of Section 137C.

This applies the same power available to the court in relation to other contraventions of information standards covered by the Act.

Items 11, 12, 13 and 14

Section 252 provides a defence for contraventions relating to safety and information standards involving consumer goods acquired for the purpose of re-supply. Items 11-14 amend this Section to extend the defence to contraventions of food labelling requirements where the food was acquired for the purpose of re-supply.

Item 15

Item 15 amends Section 255(1) to stipulate that its provisions do not apply in relation to country of origin labelling for food to avoid any confusion or conflict between this section and the new provisions stipulated in Section 137A.



 

 

Schedule 2 - Amendments to the Imported Food Control Act 1992

Items 16, 17 and 18

At present the Imported Food Control Act 1992 reflects the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code Standard 1.2.11 . As this bill will over-ride Standard 1.2.11, items 16-18 amend the Act so that its measures pertaining to country of origin food labelling reflects Competition and Consumer Act amendments in this bill.



 

 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Food Labelling) Bill 2012

This bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

The bill amends the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to create a new section specifying new definitions and standards with regard to the country of origin labelling on packaged and non-packaged food.

 

The bill also makes complementary amendments to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Act 1991, specifically the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code - Standard 1.2.11 - Country of Origin Requirements (Australia Only) to reflect the changes to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 .

None of these amendments make any substantive changes to the law.

 

Human rights implications

This bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.

 

Conclusion

This bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

Senator Christine Milne

 

This material is provided to persons who have a role in Commonwealth legislation, policy and programs as general guidance only and is not to be relied upon as legal advice.  Commonwealth agencies subject to the Legal Services Directions 2005  requiring legal advice in relation to matters raised in this document must seek that advice in accordance with the Directions .