Gourmet Garden CEO Nick White.
Gourmet Garden CEO Nick White.

Gourmet Garden in labelling row

SUCCESSFUL Palmwoods agribusiness Gourmet Garden has been forced to defend labelling one of its products "Australian Made"; after it was revealed the chief ingredient comes from China.

The product has been flagged as a prime example of what has been described as a grey area in country-of-origin labelling.

Gourmet Garden chief executive Nick White insisted the company's garlic paste met the Australian Made standard set down by the Australian Consumer Law as a "significant portion"; of the cost of producing the product occurred here.

A product can lawfully carry an Australian Made or Made in Australia logo if it was "substantially transformed"; here and 50% or more of the total cost of producing or manufacturing the product occurred here.

"All we're doing is importing cloves and converting it into paste. The labour and the cost of the other ingredients is all done in Australia," Mr White said.

"All our varieties, except garlic, are locally grown. There's simply not a reliable supply or consistent quality of locally grown garlic."

On its website, Gourmet Garden claims its paste is pesticide-free and organically grown.

Mr White said the company sourced its garlic from certified organic growers in China and was working with Australian garlic producers to lift supply.

Ian Harrison, the chief executive of Australian Made, Australian Grown, a not-for-profit organisation that helps businesses promote and shoppers identify locally made and grown items, said the garlic paste did not meet its standard.

He did, however, say the paste "probably" complied with the Australian Consumer Law criteria for Australian Made - but the criteria should be stiffened.

Melbourne-based Mr Harrison, whose organisation was established by the Federal Government in 1986 and has campaign partners that include Coles and Qantas, said the paste would be barred from carrying the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo because the body believed it had not been substantially transformed.

It was garlic in another form.

"I'm not suggesting the company is involved in misleading advertising, but for the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo it's been our decision to be much stricter than the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) in the way we will interpret substantial transformation, to do with this very type of example," he said.