So you have sizzled some prawns on the barbecue, picked at a pavlova, nibbled on a lamington and could be feeling quite nostalgic this Australia Day. But just how Australian was your food?
When it comes eating local on the public holiday, a study of classic Australian foods by consumer advocate Choice has revealed that it is tricky to find out where your food really comes from.
Choice examined the origin statement of 32 products like lamingtons and passionfruit pulp from major retailers Aldi, Coles and Woolworths found it was extremely difficult to tell if they had been made using Australian ingredients.
The study found 12 products (including Tim Tams and Vegemite) were labelled 'Made in Australia', meaning the product was made in Australia and at least least half of its total production costs were incurred here. But the labels did not reveal where the the ingredients were grown or sourced.
Choice author Rachel Clemons found a further six products, including packaged lamingtons and Anzac biscuits were labelled 'Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients'. These labels let consumers know that at least some ingredients are local – just not which ones.
Most product labels contain statements like 'made in' and 'product of'. Under current labelling rules, the words 'made in' means that the product was made in that stipulated country, and at least half of its total production costs were incurred there. However, the label not guarantee that it contains local ingredients or reveal what proportion of the ingredients are local.
The study also found meat pie labelling was inconsistent. Aldi's Elmsbury Chunky Beef Pies and Woolworths Select Beef pies claimed '100 per cent Australian Beef'. Cheaper 'meat pies' sold from both retailers and Four'n Twenty meat pies did not explicitly state the beef was all Australian. However, the products spruik iconic Australian images – with a plethora of flags, kangaroos and squirts of tomato sauce in the shape of Australia splashed over the wrappings.
The study found that the Coles' pavlova base was labelled 'Product of Australia', which, according to Choice, means that each significant ingredient or part of the product started in Australia and much of production happened here also. The tiger prawns included in the study were also labelled 'Product of Australia'.
Canned passionfruit pulp products were from China, Peru and Thailand.
Labels set to change
Country of origin labels are set to change, with the government seeking public feedback on a proposal for new labels.
What the companies said:
- Arnott's referred the consumer group to its website, which revealed the cocoa in Tim Tams is from West Africa, the cocoa butter from Asia, the milk solids were Australian, over half the sugar is from Queensland (the rest from Thailand), the flour is Australian and the palm oil is Malaysian.
- An Aldi Australia spokesperson told Choice that the key ingredients of meat and wheat flour in its Elmsbury Meat Pies and and sugar and flour in its lamington fingers were all sourced from Australia.
- A Coles spokesperson said all Coles Brand frozen meat pies were made with 100 per cent Australian meat. Coles Anzac Biscuits contain wheat flour, sugar, sugar syrup, oats and eggs all produced in Australia. Coles Brand and Smart Buy lamingtons contain water, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and canola oil all produced in Australia and Coles Chocolate Surrenders contain wheat flour, sugar, golden syrup and milk powder all produced in Australia.
- Woolworths said its Woolworths Select Pavlova base was made from 97.5 per cent Australian ingredients, Homebrand Meat Pies have 92 per cent Australian ingredients, Woolworths Bakery Anzac Biscuits have 75 per cent Australian ingredients, Woolworths Select Lamington Fingers 53 per cent and Homebrand Choc Lamington Fingers 60 per cent Australian ingredients.
- Woolworths told the group that both the Anzac Biscuits and lamingtons use imported coconut.