From 1 July 2018, under the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 (Standard), most food for retail sale in Australia must show information about their country of origin.

The information may be a text statement or text and graphic label, known as a ‘standard mark’.

Applying the Standards

The Standard applies to food sold in stores, markets, online or from vending machines. It also includes packaged foods sold by wholesalers.  Packaged food must carry country of origin labels. Unpackaged fish, certain meats (chicken, veal, pork, beef, lamb, hogget and mutton), fruit or vegetables, nuts, spices, herbs, fungi, legumes and seeds (or a mix of any of these foods) must also carry country of origin labels.

The Standard does not apply to food:

  • that is unpackaged and not in the list above e.g. bread, cheese, pastries or sandwiches
  • for export only (however, if the export food becomes available in the domestic market it will need to carry a country of origin label)
  • sold by restaurants, canteens, schools, caterers, self-catering institutions, prisons, hospitals, medical institutions or at fund-raising events e.g. cake stalls.
  • made and packaged on the premises where it is sold e.g. sausages in a retail butchery
  • delivered and packaged ready to eat as ordered by the customer e.g. home delivered pizza
  • for special medical purpose
  • not for human consumption.

The labelling requirements vary depending on whether the food is:

  • a priority or non-priority food
  • was grown, produced, made or packed in Australia.

Priority and non-priority food

Non-priority food includes:

  • seasonings
  • confectionary
  • biscuits and snack food
  • bottled water
  • soft drinks and sports drinks
  • tea and coffee
  • alcoholic beverages

All other foods like meats, fruit and vegetables, bread and dairy products, are priority foods.

Grown, produced, made and packed

There are four key concepts behind making accurate claims about where a food product originated from. They are ‘grown in’, ‘product of’, ‘made’ and ‘packed’.

Grown in applies to food actually grown in the country claimed and usually applies to fresh food e.g. a calf raised to an adult cow. Foods with lots of different ingredients can also claim to be ‘grown in a specified country as long as all the significant ingredients are from that country and all of the processing happened in that country.

A priority food can only carry a ‘Grown in Australia’ standard mark label if it contains exclusively Australian ingredients.

Product of means all the significant ingredients in a food are from that country and all of the processing was done in that country.

A priority food can only claim to be a ‘product of’ if it contains exclusively Australian ingredients.

Made in means the food was last substantially transformed in that country, usually through the manufacturing process. It can apply to food grown or produced in that country or to food that has been processed until it is completely different from all its imported ingredients or components. For example, a pork sausage (final product) is different from the imported meat and spices that were used to make it.

Packed in refers to food that cannot claim to be ‘grown’, ‘produced’ or ‘made’ in one country.

Labelling requirements for non-priority and priority food

Non-priority foods

Non-priority foods need to have a country of origin text statement stating where the food was grown, produced or made. The statement must be legible and stand out against the background of the label

Priority Food labelling

Priority food grown, produced or made in Australia must use a three-component standard mark label. The three-component standard mark has text and images in a clearly defined box.