News Corp Australia's 2017 Win Groceries for a Year worth $25,000 Competition — stock image. Full paper bag of different health food on rustic wooden background. Top view. Flat lay
News Corp Australia's 2017 Win Groceries for a Year worth $25,000 Competition — stock image. Full paper bag of different health food on rustic wooden background. Top view. Flat lay

Do you know where your food is coming from?

ONLINE grocery shoppers may not know the country from where their fresh fruit, meat and vegetables have been sourced until it arrives on their doorstep under new labelling laws.

A loophole in Country of Origin Labelling Information Standards, which will be uniform across the country from July 1, effectively allows online sellers to withhold country of origin information until after payment.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said under the new laws, online sellers only need to inform buyers upon delivery to remain within the regulations.

To satisfy the ACCC, an online seller must either include the country of origin on the receipt, or on a label when the produce is delivered or on the website (point of sale).

"While the Information Standard does not require labels to be displayed on web pages featuring food to be sold online, retailers are encouraged to display the label on the product page as a service to customers," the ACCC spokesman said.

"The issue of whether the Information Standard should expressly require labels to be displayed for food sold online may be revisited in two years when the reforms are evaluated."

Seafood Industry Association boss Jane Lovell was unaware there was less demand on retail websites to display where its seafood is sourced from and wanted it rectified.

The loophole undermined the intent of the legislation, which was to allow consumers to make an informed choice.

"It's a clear legislative loophole and that is not the intent of the changes," Ms Cavell said.

"The new laws were quite complex but it looks like for online, they have just ducked the whole thing. It completely denies consumers the right to help the local industry."

Woolworths and Coles currently do not display the country of origin on all of the seafood it offers online but they have vowed to do so by July 1.

"We know there is more work to be done with online points of sale and we are on track to have country of origin information rolled out by 1 July in line with the Australian Consumer Law standards," a Woolworths spokesman said.

AusVeg ceo James Whiteside hoped online retailers took a "proactive" approach and displayed the country of origin on their websites.

Morgan’s Seafood at Scarborough details the origin of all its seafood. File picture
Morgan’s Seafood at Scarborough details the origin of all its seafood. File picture

"While the new country of origin labels provides more information to consumers about their food, the new system's impact is lessened if it is not applied equally across all points of sale," Mr Whiteside said.

"It is not enough for a consumer to wait to receive a product or the receipt after shopping online to find out where their food has come from … so they can make more informed purchasing decisions."

Despite Coles and Woolworths failing to show the country of origin on all of its online seafood offerings, one of southeast Queensland's biggest online sellers has been doing so for years.

Morgan's Seafood, at Scarborough, details where all of its seafood is sourced and co-owner Peter Michaels said it was incumbent on all retailer websites to list the country of origin.

"If you have to display a country of origin instore you should be doing that online as well," Mr Michaels said.



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