Don’t need govt to be CoOl


The furore over Australian supermarket chains shutting out New Zealand products and produce has refuelled the cries for compulsory country of origin labelling (CoOL).

I like to know where food I buy comes from and it does influence what I buy.

But there’s no need for the government to get involved.

C0OL isn’t difficult for fresh produce and single ingredient products.

The supermarkets I usually shop at already have CoOL for most of their food, where they can.

They’re responding to customer demand and if it’s good for business they’ll keep doing it.

If it’s not good for business they and their customers would lose from government interference.

Agitating for compulsion is just one many examples of where, if the government is the answer, the wrong question was asked.


No need for compulsion


Beef + Lamb NZ will be labelling Australian meat so consumers know where it comes from.

That’s a good idea to help consumers make informed choices about what they buy and eat.

But the Green Party are using this to support their campaign for compulsory country of origin labelling (COOL).

Compulsion should be the very last step.

Consumers are letting food retailers and producers know they want to know where their food comes from and more are doing it.

It’s not difficult with single ingredient food and therefore shouldn’t be expensive.

This is the market at work. Consumers are asking for COOL and they’re getting it.

Companies which manufacture local produce are missing an opportunity to make the most of a growing demand for local food if they don’t do it.

As more companies label their food as locally produced it will become obvious that food not so labelled probably isn’t.

It might not be happening as quickly as some would like, but COOL is happening and there’s no need to make it compulsory.

Legislation should be last resort


Labour’s Food Safety spokesperson Damien O’Connor says Country of Origin labelling should be included in the Food Bill.

Legislation should be a last resort.

Why start there when consumer pressure is a much better first step?

If we want CoOl we should be demanding it from supermarkets.

Customer pressure worked in getting rid of the charge on plastic bags, why wouldn’t it work for CoOl?

I like to know where my food comes from and sometimes, maybe even often, choose not to buy fresh produce if I can’t seen where it came from. When I can spot the country of origin it can be the deciding factor in my choice of which product to buy.

That’s the market and customer preference at work, it doesn’t need political interference.

It isn’t difficult to put CoOL on fresh produce and other single ingredient food but multi-ingredient foods are much harder to label which is why statements like made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients is common.

I trust our food standards and it’s enough to know that something is made here, I don’t need to know the country of origin of every single ingredient.

Legislating to make it compulsory would add complexity and cost. If people on low incomes are already struggling to make ends meet it would be stupid to make food more expensive when there are better ways to get CoOl, if that’s what customers want.




No need for complusion in labelling


The announcement that sow crates will be phased out has led to calls for country of origin labelling to differentiate local produced pork products from imports.

Supermarkets and butcheries could and should provide country of origin labelling as a service to their customers. It could also help with marketing but there is no need for compulsion.

If New Zealand producers label their produce as New Zealand produce they can then use the opportunity to differentiate it from pork products from overseas competitors who continue to use stalls.

Customers will be able to work out for themselves that if it isn’t branded as New Zealand produce it will be from somewhere else and make their decision on which bacon, ham or pork to purchase with that knowledge.

You don’t have to force us


A quarter of all light bulbs in Otago homes are energy efficient and 84% of homes in New Zealand are using eco bulbs.

That’s the findings of a study conducted for the Electricity Commission.

Commission chairman David Caygill said changing all the old bulbs across the country could save householders $245 million a year.

“Most New Zealanders now recognise that inefficient lighting has been adding greatly to household power bills.”

Cost savings were the main reason for switching bulbs as an energy-efficient one used 80% less electricity and lasted six times as long as a standard bulb.

Who would have thought that people might work out that saving power saved money without the state forcing them into doing it?

The people behind mandatory country of origin labelling  (MCoOL) should take note. They think:

Mandatory country of origin labelling (MCoOL) is the only way to ensure the consumer gets to make the right choice for them, whether their purchase decision is based on product origin, the price, safety concerns, what the kids like, nutrition needs or just plain old flavour preference.

I can see what CoOL, mandatory or not, has to do with product origin and safety. But it’s likely to increase prices and has nothing to do with what the kids like, nutrition needs and flavour preference.

I like to know where the food I buy comes from and rarely buy something unless I’m satisfied about its country of origin. But that’s no reason to make CoOL mandatory.

If consumers want CoOL it’s up to us to let retailers know. Consumer pressure persuaded Food Stuffs to drop its plastic bag charge, it will also persuade them to have CoOL if enough of us stated demanding it.

There’s no need to force it on us. The bulb study shows most of us are quite capable of working out what’s best for us and acting on it.

P.S. – How’s this for a poll?

It’s from the CoOL website and while the rest of the page talks about mandatory labelling, the poll doesn’t.

 I’d answer yes to all the questions but if the final question had mandatory in it I’d answer no.

We’ll keep you up to date with any progress on our campaign.

 A quick poll

Have you ever considered where your food comes from?

yes  no

Would you like to know where your food comes from?

yes  no

Would Country of Origin food labelling be likely to affect your choice of purchase?

yes  no

Do you think Country of Origin labelling is a good idea for New Zealand?

yes  no




Buy local campaign conflicts with free trade


The headline in The Age says ‘Buy Australian’ and free market theory aren’t in conflict.

That statement is wrong and so is the opinion piece which follows because it confuses a buy local campaign with country of origin labelling.

Buy American, Buy Australian or Buy Any Nation campaigns work on the basis of a simple, first principle concept. Consumers do not know the country of origin of the products they are buying. The first principle of a Buy My Country’s products campaign is to tell the consumer at the retail outlet where the produce or consumer products come from.

Country of origin labelling might persuade people to buy local, but that is not its primary aim.

The only aim of buy local campaigns is to persuade consumers to purchase domestic produce and products rather than imported ones and that is definitely in conflict with free trade.

Country of origin labelling isn’t always easy to do, but knowing where products come from enables consumers to make informed choices. That’s very different from telling them – often erroneously – that it’s better to buy local.

COOL gives information, buy local seeks to persuade consumers that domestic produce and products are better than imported ones.

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