New food labels costing local producers millions
BYRON Bay Brookfarm owners could be up for half a million dollars with new country of origin labelling laws.
New labels showing what percentage of ingredients are from Australia will be compulsory from July 2018.
Brookfarm is one of many Australian producers up for the changes but Brookfarm Co-owner, Pam Brook, said the new laws won't solve the problems it aims to and puts a huge cost burden on producers.
"The new labels don't have to say where the ingredients come from, just what ones are Australian,” Ms Brook said.
Producers are being forced to redesign their packaging to include the Australian made kangaroo logo and a bar chart showing the percentage of Australian ingredients.
But the new rules don't apply to all producers: highly processed products like chips and soft drinks are exempt.
"It's frustrating... I don't have a problem with country of origin labelling, if only it were to apply in a fair and equal manner across all industries”.
"In this industry you cant pass those costs on to the consumer, you have to absorb them yourself or the product will become too expensive,” she said.
The federal government announced the change after a string of hepatitis A outbreaks were linked to frozen berries.
Ms Brook said the system was time consuming, confusing and expensive, with 70 packs to change, a minimum of six hours per pack along with further design processes and reviews.
"The new labels don't take seasonal producers into consideration...they will probably have to change their labels each year,” she said.
Ms Brook said after the re-designed labels are finished they will need to be confirmed correct, but there is no system in place and the government has told them if they are unsure to take legal advice.
"$300-$500 and hour (for legal costs) is not fair on a small producer. We feel unsupported by the government and the new rules aren't transparent enough for the consumer”.
She said the government needs to consider other "lower cost” revenues, such as a barcode scanning apps, "where consumers can look at details of where every ingredient comes from by scanning the product with their phone”.