Food Labelling in Australia - what is Made in Australia and Product of Australia?
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Food Labelling - Made in Australia, Product of Australia

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I've looked at food labels for years - long before it became "fashionable" to stare aimlessly at the fine print food manufacturers seem to begrudgingly print on their food product labels. Food labelling has come a long way, but still leaves some people dazed and confused.

The main culprits I look out for are fat (particularly trans fats), kilojoules, flavour enhancers (621/MSG in particular), and finally, one of the most overlooked but important of them all, sodium. Did you know that just ONE Cup-a-Soup can contain one third of your daily sodium allowance?

Uncle Toby's Oats The other important element, as far as I am concerned anyway, is where the product is made. The best of course is "Product of Australia" - which means the product must be SUBSTANTIALLY made in Australia using Australian made or grown ingredients. There appears to be NO label covering products where the ingredients ALL come from Australia.

The "Made in Australia" label can be a little confusing - dare I say misleading. "Made in Australia" can mean all the ingredients are imported, but simply mixed, put together, baked, processed or packaged in Australia.

With all my years' experience of looking at labels, the thought suddenly occurred to me the other day to look more closely at my favourite breakfast cereal, Uncle Toby's Oats. A bowl of Uncle Toby's Oats, sliced banana, a little honey and brown sugar, plus a few cranberries sprinkled over the top every morning - yum!

Anyway, I know the product contains 100% rolled oats, and it is labelled "Made in Australia". There at the very bottom of the label is a nice "Made in Australia" encircled with a graphical representation of Australia made from a healthy looking oat plant. BUT, printed right next to familiar Aussie map, in bold, is "Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients".

Food Labelling HUH? So if the product is "100% Uncle Toby's wholegrain rolled oats", and the product is made from "local and imported ingredients", does that mean the oats are 100% imported? Or SOME of the oats are imported? Maybe the box is made in Australia and the oats are imported? Surely they don't import the box and use Aussie oats?

Well, Uncle Toby's oats lovers - put your minds at ease. After speaking with a representative from Nestle (the owners of uncle Toby's) I am told the rolled oats are 100% Australian. Apparently a few years ago there were not enough Aussie oats to go around, so they imported some from Canada. Why, years later, the product box STILL says "Made in Australia" and not "Product of Australia" I don't know - it makes it very confusing for consumers.

Good grief! And now I hear the Chinese are circumventing our quarantine restrictions by sneakily exporting to New Zealand (with whom we have an open trade agreement), where the product is repackaged or processed, and then finally it hits our shores labelled "Made in New Zealand". Made in China by proxy more like it! I've actually purchased food products labelled "Made in New Zealand" because I believe their food standards to be good, but now I'm thinking "was that REALLY grown in New Zealand, or was it grown in China and merely processed in New Zealand?"

Don't get me wrong - I like China. Without China, we would probably be in a WORLD of financial hurt. But seriously, their food manufacturing standards don't even come CLOSE to ours. And here are our close friends and allies, New Zealand, helping to bypass our food standards.

Not - happy - Jan! We need more farmers markets so we can buy good, Australian made produce and support our struggling farmers and food producers.

If you would like more information about food standards in Australia, please visit the Food Standards website, or go direct to their interactive food labelling page.

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