Businesses are being urged to carefully review their country of origin labelling as the ACCC prepares to crack down on false or misleading statements.
It comes ahead of changes to the legal requirements of country of origin labelling which will come into force in the 2018/19 financial year.
“In particular, businesses should review any claims on their product labelling or advertising which suggests that the product was ‘Made in’ a particular country,” ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Schaper said in a statement.
“Consumers are often willing to pay a premium for products that originate from particular countries, but they need to be able to trust the labels. Failure to label products correctly may expose a business to penalties of up to $1.1 million.”
Country of origin claims have been a common cause of complaint among Australian consumers, with the ACCC having received more than 3,000 complaints in the last five years about a range of products.
According to Dr Schaper, imported ingredients or components need to undergo a fundamental change in nature, identity or essential character to justify being labelled as having been made in a particular country.
Minor processing that changes the form or appearance of imported goods is not considered enough to comply with the Australian Consumer Law.
From 1 July 2018, businesses involved in the retail supply of food will also be bound by the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard.
“By July 2018, labels on most food products that are made in Australia will have to clearly show the percentage of Australian-grown or produced ingredients. Businesses should be taking steps now to ensure they have the procedures in place to roll out the new labels,” said Dr Schaper.
“The ACCC will actively monitor compliance with the new food labelling requirements, and has the power to force companies to prove that any representation made is accurate.”
The ACCC has released country of origin food labelling guidance to assist businesses with the transition to the new food labelling requirements.