COOL doesn’t have to be compulsory

The pork industry is pushing for country of origin labelling:

New Zealand consumers want to know where their food comes from and NZPork believes they have a right to that information, CEO of NZPork, Owen Symmans told the Primary Production Select Committee today (this week).

“Many New Zealanders believe that as a food producing country the food they buy is grown here. They want to support local produce. Most will be surprised this is not actually the case, 49% of the pork and pork products consumed here is imported, for example. Our research tells us that people generally believe the bacon, ham or pork they are buying is local. And often the labelling, while legal, is misleading.”

Mr Symmans said that with some products, such as ham and bacon, the only ‘kiwi’ components might be the water or the “Manuka” smoke used during processing.

“The major ingredient – the meat – is imported from somewhere else such as Mexico or Canada.”

Despite being a signatory to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Agreement (FSANZ), New Zealand has not adopted the same approach to labelling as its partner, Mr Symmans said. Australia requires CoOL (country of origin labelling) for fresh products (single ingredient product).

“NZPork has recommended to the [Primary Production] Select Committee hearing submissions on the Food Bill that CoOL labelling requirements be introduced for single ingredient products under the FSANZ standard. We should not continue to ‘opt out’ of our responsibility to ensure consumers can make an informed decision about the food they are buying.

Mr Symmans said that rules also need to be amended so that the country of origin of the main ingredient of a processed (multiple ingredient) product is identified in a clear and obvious manner.

“New Zealanders have a right to know and be able to then make an informed decision when buying their food.”

The Primary Industry Select Committee is hearing submissions on the Food Bill, which is expected to be reported back to parliament this year.

People’s purchasing decisions are based on a variety of factors, one of which is where food comes from.

I almost always check the country of origin and sometimes won’t buy a single-ingredient product if it’s not obvious where it originated.

But COOL doesn’t have to be compulsory.

New Zealand producers can clearly label their goods as such and use that as a marketing tool. They could also lobby supermarkets to label single ingredient produce with its country of origin – as most do already for a lot of goods – without the need for the compliance costs involved with compulsion.

People who care will respond and those who don’t probably value another factor, such as price, more highly than country of origin anyway.

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