Country of Origin labelling on the agenda – finally!
Over recent years WAFIC has been lobbying assiduously to convince the government to introduce compulsory Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) for the food service sector and we now have a commitment from the Federal Government to explore options to implement enhanced labelling.
Currently, under the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016, it is mandatory for all fish sold at the retail level – such as in supermarkets – to be labelled with its country of origin so that purchasers can make an informed choice over which products they prefer. However, at the hospitality level – restaurants, pubs and fish & chip shops – it is not a requirement. As a result it has been possible to serve cheap imported fish to customers who may think they are purchasing a higher quality local product and this tainting of the experience has therefore discouraged people from buying local seafood products in the future.
WAFIC made repeated representations to the Turnbull and Morrison governments but we were continually pushed down the bureaucratic route, where it soon became obvious there was no true commitment to securing the outcomes. Certainly we were aware that some of the hospitality and tourism industry associations were agitating hard in opposition to the concept, stating (believe it or not) that it would be too expensive to reprint the menus. Close to the election we were advised that the matter would be reviewed in a few years’ time, which of course is ‘Canberra speak’ for never.
Immediately following the election of the Albanese government, WAFIC made contact with the new Federal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senator the Hon Murray Watt, and we lobbied for a change in heart. This week we received a response from the Minister and we have great pleasure in announcing that the government has now committed to working with the seafood and hospitality sectors to explore options to implement country of origin labelling for seafood at the food service level.
Furthermore, the Minister advised he looks forward to working with WAFIC and the seafood industry on this and other issues relevant to the sector.
This is really great news and demonstrates that it is occasionally possible to get some common-sense outcomes that will benefit local communities and WA’s seafood producers.
WAFIC will continue to make positive representations on behalf of our local seafood industry and to promote WA’s world best seafood produce.