Is food labelling CoOL or not?

Is food labelling as CoOL as it could be?

Opinion
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The Australian Government is currently reviewing the Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) system it introduced in July 2018.

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The Australian Government is currently reviewing the Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) system it introduced in July 2018.

The labelling system uses a 'bar chart' to convey the percentage of Australian ingredients and manufacturing used to make a product, but it is unclear whether it is making it easier for consumers to choose local.

CoOL has been embraced by farmers due to the specific information it provides around a product's origin.

However, there is a concern that consumers continue to unknowingly opt for products produced overseas.

Around 70 percent of ham and bacon sold in Australia originates overseas, while imports of New Zealand cheeses continue to rise.

Consumers may even be fooled by the origin of cut flowers, many of which were imported prior to the COVID 19 pandemic.

In providing a snapshot of a product's provenance, the bar chart should be a consumer's best friend. But, consumers may not be aware it exists.

What's more, the bar chart could easily be eclipsed next to the highly recognisable Australian Made logo, which is still used on products with an Australian origin under the CoOL standards.

This logo has come to be understood to mean locally-made, despite that not always being the case.

Since CoOL's inception, NSW Farmers has pushed for an education campaign to build consumer awareness around the labelling system.

CoOL has the right intent, but it will only work if consumers are aware of it and know to look beyond the Australian Made logo.

Since the onset of the coronavirus crisis and its impact on international supply chains, buying local has never seemed more important.

Social research has confirmed a rise in appreciation for local food production over recent months; now, consumers just need to know how to choose the right products.

CoOL is the right tool for the job, but the Australian Government needs to boost the community's understanding of the system.

  • NSW Farmers Association

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