The parent company of Birds Eye has amended the country of origin labelling on 31 frozen fish products, from ‘Made in Australia’ to ‘Packed in Australia’, following concerns raised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The frozen fish products were sold by Simplot Australia Pty Ltd (Simplot) under the brand names Birds Eye, I&J, Neptune and one home brand product.
Following compliance checks across a range of frozen foods, the ACCC was concerned that the products displayed a ‘Made in Australia’ mark when the imported frozen fish may not have been “substantially transformed” in Australia, the watchdog said in a media release.
Under the Australian Consumer Law’s Country of Origin labelling provisions, if a food product, such as fish, is packed in Australia without being substantially transformed, it cannot display a ‘Made in Australia’ mark.
The products sold by Simplot’s brands used fish imported from several countries, including New Zealand, the United States and South Africa.
The ACCC’s view is that only minor manufacturing processes occur in Australia and, when viewed collectively, the imported ingredients do not differ fundamentally from the manufactured goods.
Simplot was of the view that slicing, crumbing, and par-frying of the frozen fish constituted substantial transformation, justifying the use of the ‘Made in Australia’ mark. However, after the ACCC raised its concerns, Simplot agreed to change its country of origin labelling on these frozen fish products.
“Processes that only change the form or appearance of imported ingredients or components no longer qualify as substantial transformation,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said in a statement.
“Country of origin labels are designed to inform consumers, some of whom may be willing to pay a premium for products they think are made in a particular country, especially Australia.
“Not only can incorrect labelling wrongly influence consumers into purchasing a certain product, it can also give a competitive advantage to those who use the ‘Made in Australia’ label in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
“We are pleased that Simplot co-operated with the ACCC investigation and agreed to make changes to its labelling, and on this basis we decided to resolve this matter administratively without taking enforcement action.”
All Simplot frozen fish products manufactured after 31 October 2020 will have the ‘Packed in Australia’ mark but products with the ‘Made in Australia’ mark may still be available in store until sold out.
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