A Country of Origin labelling model proposed for the hospitality industry

Aussie diners who have wanted to know whether the seafood they’re being served is truly local, may soon be able to tell.

It comes after the Albanese government proposed a Country of Origin labelling (CoOL) model for seafood in the hospitality sector with consultation for the proposal now open.

It would work by a three-letter system on menus. For example if you’re at your local fish and chip shop and you’ve ordered a barramundi, it will either have the letter A for Australian, I for imported and M for mixed origin.

Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayres described it as a “fair dinkum reform” that will allow customers to easily identify the origin of the seafood.

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“[It] is absolutely straightforward for consumers,” he told Sunrise on Friday.

“It’ll be a very simple thing for the industry to comply with.”

He said Australians should be able to easily find out where their food comes from.

“Making seafood labelling clearer, simpler and mandatory will mean people will know if they are purchasing premium local produce.”

Labelling is already needed for most food sold in Australian retail settings, such as supermarkets and grocery stores.

However, according to the proposal, hospitality businesses such as restaurants, cafes and hotels do not currently have to label their food.

“Some hospitality businesses provide origin information by choice, especially in high-end businesses for premium seafood,” the proposal states.

Consumers have had access to origin information on most food products sold in retail stores since 2018, when the first set of labelling reforms came into full effect.

And according to a survey, in the ‘Evaluation of Country of Origin Labelling reforms’ report, more than three-quarters of participants said they referred to country of origin information when purchasing food in retail settings.

“Consumers can also ask for origin information at any time. However, there has not been significant voluntary uptake and origin information available to consumers is limited,” the proposal continues.

The hospitality industry has previously voiced concerns about such a change, warning it would add pressure to businesses constantly changing their menu.

“Obviously retailers, fish and chip shops and the catering industry want to hear more,” Mr Ayres said.

“We’re determined to consult with them to make sure they work fairly.”

Representatives of the seafood industry have applauded the move, saying it will “allow consumers to make informed decisions”.

“Right now, for food safety purposes, the supply chain of seafood is known in food service all the way to the kitchen door, however, the information is often not passed on,” Seafood Industry Australia CEO Veronica Papacosta said.

It is estimated 70 per cent of seafood eaten in Australia is imported

Those who want to voice their views on the proposed changes have until March 15 next year. The government hopes it will be implemented by Christmas next year.

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