Food labelling and imported food
The rules around labelling of imported food have changed to make it easier for consumers to see where their food comes from. Imported food is classified as food not grown, produced, made or packed in Australia.
This change means many foods sold in Australian supermarkets and retail outlets must carry a new label that clearly identifies the country that the food comes from.
Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 (the Information Standard)
If you supply food for retail sale in Australia, new country of origin labelling laws will apply to your products under the Information Standard.
The Information Standard applies to:
- food for retail sale in Australia (e.g. food sold to the public in stores or markets, or from vending machines)
- packaged foods sold by wholesalers
- many unpackaged foods.
What has changed?
The main change is that most imported, packaged foods are now required to have the country of origin statement placed in a clearly defined box on the label.
The Information Standard started on 1 July 2016 and has a two year transition period. During the transition period businesses (including importers) can either:
- continue to label their products according to the existing labelling requirements set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Food Standards Code) or
- adopt the new labelling requirements of the Information Standard.
When the transition period ends on 1 July 2018, food entering Australia must be labelled according to the requirements of the Information Standard or penalties will apply. However, stock in trade (food products that are packaged and labelled according to the Food Standards Code on or before 30 June 2018) can still be sold without the new labels.
How to apply the labels
To meet the new requirements, you can either:
- import food products that already have the required labels, or
- amend the labels to meet requirements once it arrives in Australia.
Labels for imported foods will not be allowed to use the kangaroo symbol as the foods are not made, grown or produced in Australia.
While it is not mandatory, if your product is made and packed overseas but contains Australian ingredients, you can use the bar chart to show this. The country of origin labelling online tool can help you choose the right label if your product has Australian ingredients.
If an imported food cannot claim to have been grown, produced or made in a single overseas country, it must carry a ‘packed in’ statement rather than a ‘made in’ statement. This statement must be in a clearly defined box, unless the imported food is a non-priority food (see which foods are impacted below). This means that the label must identify the country where it was packed and indicate that the food is of multiple origins, or from imported ingredients (e.g. Packed in Brazil from imported ingredients).
Please see the Frequently asked questions for food importers for more examples of how the new labels apply to your food products.
The changes will not affect the tariff heading for your product.
All foods, other than non-priority foods, must carry the new labels.
Non-priority foods are still required to have the country of origin statement, but the statement does not need to be placed within a clearly defined box.
Non-priority food are:
- biscuits and snack foods
- bottled water
- sports drinks and soft drinks
- tea and coffee
- alcoholic beverages.