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Some food manufacturers are struggling to meet the demands of country of origin labelling laws as the deadline for compliance looms.

The Federal Government introduced a new country of origin food labelling system in 2016, with businesses given until 30 June 2018 to change labels to the new format.

The changes require food manufacturers and importers to clearly identify where products are produced, grown, made or packed – a move designed to increase transparency and help consumers make informed choices.

KHQ Food & Beverage lawyer Amelia Edwards said the new compliance obligations are much more onerous than those that apply to imported foods.

“Small producers are feeling this compliance burden more heavily than the big players, terrified about expensive product recalls and fines in the millions if they don’t comply,” Edwards said.

“Whether the new labelling requirements will benefit consumers remains to be seen, but I have heard first-hand how Australian food businesses large and small have struggled with the cost of producing new labels and will continue to struggle with ensuring they maintain accurate labelling in a vulnerable and changing market.

“Most food products made in Australia need to be marked with the percentage of Australian ingredients they contain, but foreign product labels need only say 'made in X' and indicate generally whether ingredients are local and/or imported.”

The Le Mac Australia Group is now offering assistance to companies holding onto old printed rewind stock without the new Country of Origin labelling logo. It is currently letting the industry know that it can overprint the logo for certain printed rewinds.

A South Australian-based cheese producer told KHQ it would pay more than $25,000 for new labels, despite having ample current stock that will be illegal to use from 1 July.

“We support transparent labelling, but the decline of manufacturing in Australia is a big part of the problem,” he said.

“The reality is that some important key ingredients are sourced from overseas because they are no longer manufactured here.

“The concept of '100% Australian ingredients' is a lot of the time a thing of the past, and consumers who think they have been buying that are going to be left disappointed.

“These new labels may lead consumers to think something in the products has changed, and turn them away, thinking they have been duped, when in fact nothing has changed at all.”

Design execution services company Task by Kirk has been working with large and small businesses to prepare them for the change, but last year warned that many businesses are unlikely to meet the deadline to comply with the new Australian Consumer Law act.