CHOICE has found it’s impossible to determine the country of origin of nearly half the frozen fruit and vegetables available in Australian supermarkets.
In the wake of numerous hepatitis A cases linked to imported frozen berries, CHOICE took to the supermarket freezers to investigate the country of origin of frozen fruit and veggies in Australia.
After checking the labels of 55 products, we’ve concluded that consumers who want transparency and control over the food they’re eating will have a lot of trouble knowing where their food comes from. And this is why CHOICE continues to campaign on better country of origin labelling in Australia.
There are several country of origin labelling (CoOL) statements that are currently approved for use in Australia. Most of them don’t adequately explain the origin of the food we eat.
Made in Australia?
Think you’re buying local? A ‘Made in Australia’ label won’t necessarily contain Australian ingredients at all.
It’s no wonder that a CHOICE surveyof 700 members found only 12% were able to accurately identify the meaning of Made in Australia.
CHOICE checks the labels
We checked the CoOL on a range of frozen mixed fruits and mixed vegetables products.
* 30 products were labelled with ‘Product of [country name]’.
* 25 products used variations of the much less transparent statements.
Country of origin information sourced from shop.coles.com.au
** The Country of Origin statement that appears alongside the Best Before date was indecipherable on every pack we checked in more than one supermarket, however a Facebook commenter alerted us to the statements on their pack which read: Country of Origin Strawberries: Mexico; Raspberries: Serbia; Blueberries: USA.
Australia has recently experienced a growth in food imports. The value of frozen vegetable imports in 2013–14 moved up 12% to $256 million, for example, and China – one of the countries associated with this latest food safety scare – remains our third largest source in this category.
Our research shows many consumers are passionate about knowing where their food is grown and where it is manufactured, but are confused about current labelling requirements. It’s clear that now, more than ever, there’s a need to improve CoOL and end this confusion.
Australians should be able to make informed choices about the food they eat,” said CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey. “We are renewing our call for simplification of country of origin labelling. It’s time to give consumers the information they want, remove the information they don’t, and test the way we label our food to make sure it’s meaningful.”