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Enforcing food labelling.

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DAFF05/193WT - 22 June 2005

Enforcing food labelling

Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss has called on the States to take their responsibilities for enforcing imported food labelling requirements seriously.

Mr Truss said that it was mandatory for unpackaged fruit and vegetables imports into Australia to be labelled at the point of sale with their 'country-of-origin', or to clearly indicate that they are imported.

"It is the States that are responsible, through their constitutional powers, for enforcing these requirements agreed by all governments in the food standards code," he said.

Mr Truss said he was concerned by reports in the Western Australia media today indicating confusion at State and local government level over who was responsible for enforcement.

"It is indisputably the WA Government's responsibility for enforcing these requirements - a responsibility, I understand, it has delegated to local councils under Section 26 of the WA Health Act 1911," he said. "The trouble is they seemed to have forgotten to tell them."

Mr Truss dismissed incorrect claims that the Australian Government was looking to water-down Australia's 'country-of-origin' food labelling requirements.

"I do not support any watering down of the requirements and will use my position as a member on the decision-making Ministerial Council to reinforce this position when the issue is called to vote. The WA Government has an equal vote in this forum.

"Food Standards Australia New Zealand has completed public consultation on the issue and will undertake a third round of consultation prior to any decisions being made. We are; however; strongly in favour of providing consumers with the information they need to make informed choices about the food they buy.

"In fact, we have pushed hard to ensure the current transitional 'country-of-origin' provisions should be replaced with tough rules. And I can assure the Australian community that the Australian Government is committed to the existing provisions to provide consumers with clear and accurate information in a manner that is easy to understand and easy to access.

"But this is not possible if the States are not similarly committed, and demonstrate that commitment by voting to support the Australian Government on this issue.

"It will also be meaningless if the standard is not appropriately enforced by those who are responsible for such action - the State and Territory governments.

"The Australian Government is committed to doing the right thing by Australian industry and Australian consumers; I will write to the WA Health Minister asking for assurances that the State Government shares the same sentiment on this issue and is ensuring its laws are policed."

Further media inquiries: Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433

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