Country-of-origin labelling

71% of Kiwis want labelling to be mandatory.

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We’ve been campaigning for country-of-origin labelling (CoOL) because we think consumers have the right to know where their food comes from.

First steps towards labelling!

It’s taken more than a decade but the first steps towards better country-of-origin labelling have been taken.

The Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Act was passed into law on 28 November 2018.

The act means country-of-origin labelling will become mandatory for fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and seafood.

When will changes take effect?

The act requires the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to issue a consumer information standard setting country-of-origin labelling requirements.

The standard will apply to fresh produce six months after it’s issued and to frozen produce in 18 months.

The minister also has the power to extend the standard to require labelling of other produce – not just fruit, veges and meat. We’ll be pushing for that to happen!

Why we support labelling

Our 2017 survey with Horticulture New Zealand found 71% of New Zealanders want mandatory country-of-origin labelling for fruit and vegetables. Only 9% were opposed.

Survey results also confirm the existing voluntary approach to labelling isn’t giving consumers the facts they need to make informed choices.

Sixty-five percent of shoppers said they looked for labelling information when they bought fresh fruit. But less than a third (32%) always found it. Even fewer (29%) always found the information when they bought fresh veges.

Country-of-origin labelling is already mandatory in many other countries. At least 50 countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, have mandatory labelling requirements.

CoOL FAQs

What are the current rules?

With the exception of wine, New Zealand law doesn’t require the country of origin of food and drinks to be disclosed to shoppers.

Why don’t we have CoOL?

In 2005, the government opted out of joining Australia in mandating CoOL under the Food Standards Code on the grounds it would be an impediment to trade. The government and some big export players in the dairy and meat industry argued a voluntary system was a better option.

Is the voluntary system effective?

Our latest survey shows the voluntary system isn’t working for consumers. Shoppers have a poor experience when they want to find out where their food comes from. A voluntary system also means there’s no independent monitoring or enforcement.

When labels are provided, the information can be meaningless. When we checked country of origin statements on 81 packets of frozen berries and veges, 21% had vague statements they were “made or packed in New Zealand from local and/or imported ingredients” or “packed in New Zealand from imported ingredients”.

Will labelling increase costs to consumers?

Manufacturers claim they’ll need tracking systems and label changes will increase costs to consumers. But they should already have systems to track where their products come from. Manufacturers often change packaging for marketing promotions — and many countries they export to demand CoOL — so we don’t buy the cost argument.

What’s Consumer NZ’s position on CoOL?

We believe consumers have a right to know where their food comes from so they can make informed choices. Our survey shows many consumers want to buy local produce. Some also want to reduce the food miles on the food they eat and avoid certain countries for ethical reasons such as workers’ rights.

Survey results

70% agreed or strongly agreed buying NZ-grown fruit and veges is important to them. A slightly higher proportion (72%) agreed it’s important for them to know where their fruit and veges come from and that country of origin labelling is important to them.


Consumers are more likely to look for country of origin information when buying fresh fruit and veges. Specifically, 65% look for country of origin information when buying fresh fruit and 60% do so when buying fresh veges.


Of those who look for country of origin information when buying fresh fruit, less than a third said they always find it; even fewer (29%) said they always find this information when buying fresh veges.


Seven out of 10 Kiwis think it should be mandatory for fruit and vegetable retailers to display country of origin information. Regular buyers of fresh fruit and veges are more likely to share this opinion.


GUIDE TO THE GRAPHS OUR DATA are from a nationally representative survey of 1066 New Zealanders, aged 18 years and older, and carried out online in February 2017. Figures may add to +/- 100% due to rounding. The margin of error is +/- 3.0%.

Member comments

Get access to comment

Steve B.
08 Jun 2020
Should companies activley hide the country of origin of their goods???

To and from a safety gear company on request for product goods origin:-

Hi

Simply, I try not to buy anything made in china.

I had bought some earmuffs from the warehouse made in Malaysia (which is fine for me) and as I need more thought that these were the ones that I bought.

If its a maybe - I simple assume they are chinese.

cheers

Steve
On 8/06/2020 11:27 am, Marketing wrote:
>
> Good morning Steve,
>
> Thank you for your inquiry, however we usually don’t give out this information
>
> Could you please let me know why you require this?
>
>
(No I didnt get an answer. Its all a bit of a joke eh mandatory labelling information is more important now than any time in NZ#s history).

Previous member
08 Dec 2018
Why does this matter?

Maybe I'm just slow, but can someone please explain why this matters? What is the actual negative consequence of the current state? Seems like a lot of effort to provide "the facts they need to make informed choices". I'm happy to support food suppliers everywhere, as long as they provide a safe product.

Or is this just about stirring up FUD? Watch out for those foreigners!

Consumer staff
10 Dec 2018
Re: Why does this matter?

Hi Kerry,

Consumers want country-of-origin labelling for a variety of reasons – whether it’s to reduce the food miles on the produce they eat or to support local companies.

At present, consumers bear the economic costs of unclear or missing information about where their food comes from. These costs result from the increased time spent trying to find information about a product’s origin, as well as from the lost utility this information would have provided.

Making origin information available therefore helps reduce search costs and ensures consumers can make purchases that better match their preferences.

Cheers,

Jess - Consumer NZ staff

Marg and Gordon
04 Aug 2018
I'm not convinced

I am not convinced that CoOL matters. Quality matters; price matters. But a high-quality piece of food can come from NZ, or the other side of the moon.

Isn't this just another middle-class pre-occupation, without a basis in fact and science?

Hayden M
03 May 2017
Making a submission

Talk about a laborious process to make a submission. I completely support the bill but struggle to support the process.

Lyn F.
29 Apr 2017
Not difficult surely

Looking for berries today. Ingredients listed as raspberries. Origin: produced from local and or imported ingredients. It is either imported or it isn't. Will be contacting the company. Packaging emphasizing NZ