‘Aussie! Aussie! Aussie?’: Peak-body calls for seafood labelling transparency
08-Jan-2019 2:33 PM
There’s nothing more Aussie than chucking a prawn on the barbie on Australia Day; unless of course you’re watching the latest Russell Crowe flick, while you tuck into another slice of pavlova… “But wait,” we hear you say, “those things aren’t Aussie.”
As Aussies, we love to claim things as our own; from the humble meat pie which actually hails from the UK, to the band Dragon who are Kiwis, and even our beloved barbeques which are actually Argentinian.
As a nation, we know how to spot a good thing, and we love to lay claim to it. But, we fall short of singing our praises when we step foot into pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants across the country.
“In July last year, regulations regarding Country of Origin Labelling were tightened for food sold in the retail sector. However, there were no regulations placed on the foodservice sector and this is where confusion occurs,” Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) CEO Jane Lovell said.
"This means that when you go out to dine, there is no obligation for businesses to label where the seafood you are about to order and eat comes from. But this information is legally required in supermarkets and at fishmongers.”
Australia currently imports 70 per cent of all seafood eaten, however Ms Lovell said most people are unaware of this fact.
"Twenty years ago almost all the seafood Aussies ate was Australian seafood. Most people assume it still is, but, people are flabbergasted when they find out the import rates,” she said.
“As a nation girt by sea, customers assume that when they dine out and order seafood that it’ll be Aussie seafood. However, we know this is not the case.
“We are proud of so much that is “Australian” so it’s odd that we let something like food labelling fly under the radar. What SIA want to see is the same legislation in place in the foodservice sector as there is in the retail sector. Nothing more.”
In 2008, Country of Origin Labelling on menus for all seafood sold in the foodservice industry was introduced in the Northern Territory with minimal disruption, and the Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP) has made an election promise to implement the same should the come into office next year.
"Queensland has some of the best seafood in the world,” LNP leader Deb Frecklington said.
“The LNP’s plan will generate interest in the local industry and give consumers the opportunity to put Queensland seafood markets, restaurants and cafes first.
“All we would have to do is make an amendment to the Food Act 2006 – so our policy won’t cost taxpayers a cent.”
Australians are more interested than ever in the provenance of their food and the “Food demand in Australia” report, released by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics in August last year, showed demand for Aussie-grown produce is on the rise.
“Aussies are supporting our farmers and choosing to buy Australian produce,” Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said.
“This report shows consumers want clear food labelling and to be informed, and food producers should be listening to that message. The Coalition Government’s Country of Origin Labelling will go a long way to helping inform consumers.”
Ms Lovell said the report is further support that consumers want Country of Origin Labelling in foodservice, and said the backend work has already been done by industry for it to be implemented.
“We know Australians love Australian seafood and want to support our local industry. Next to freshness, country of origin is the second most influential factor for a consumer choosing which seafood they buy,” she said.
“As Aussies, we love to celebrate everything that lays beneath our radiant Southern Cross. On menus we proudly label the origins of our wines, beers and local produce… so why should our beautiful, rich seafood be any different?
“The Australian seafood industry has invested millions so that the quality seafood it delivers can be traced from the boat or farm, to the back door of every restaurant around the country.
“To give consumers the right of choice and seafood producers a fair go, the Australian Government needs to introduce legislation so the foodservice sector has to label seafood with its country of origin, just like seafood retailers do. It’s as simple as adding if something is gluten free during a menu reprint.
“It’s important we are clear, SIA is not vilifying imported seafood. There is nothing wrong with serving, ordering or eating imported seafood. But, as an industry, we believe consumers should be provided with the same information in a restaurant as they are at a fishmonger, so they can make a choice and place an informed order.”