What is a place of origin or country of origin claim?
Food and other goods sold in Australia may be labelled or advertised with a claim that they were ‘grown in’, ‘made in’, ‘produced in’, ‘product of’, ‘manufactured in’ or otherwise transformed in a particular place. These claims might refer to a country or a particular region in Australia or overseas. Place of origin claims are commonly in writing, however, the use of distinctive pictures, colours and logos associated with a particular place, on packaged goods or in advertising, may also be considered a place of origin claim.
Most labels or advertisements for goods include a place of origin claim?
The Country of Origin Food Labelling Standard 2016 under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) requires most food to be labelled for retail sale to be labelled with the country of origin. Standard wording, logos and graphics need to be used. (See Country of origin claims – food labelling below for more information.)
All food and many other non-food goods imported into Australia must be labelled with a country of origin to comply with importation laws. (Suppliers can get more details about importation labelling requirements from the Department of Home Affairs website).
If not required by law, it is optional for suppliers to label goods with a place of origin or country of origin.
Australian Consumer Law requirements
Consumers must be able to rely on all place of origin claims when purchasing goods, whether or not the claim or label is required by law or is voluntary. For some goods, claims they are from a particular country or region may suggest to consumers the goods are a higher or lower quality, affecting what consumers will be willing to pay for the goods. (Also see Other restrictions – geographic indications and trade marks.)
Under the ACL, all claims about the place of origin of any products, ingredients or where any manufacturing or processing occurred must be truthful. There are significant penalties for engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct or making false or misleading claims. Suppliers should be careful about using prominent and distinctive pictures, colours and logos in packaging and advertising if they suggest a place of origin that is not where the good was actually made, grown or produced, and despite any fine print that discloses the actual place of origin.
Suppliers complying with the information standard for food labelling or the safe harbour defences in the Australian Consumer Law for goods other than food (see below) will not be making false or misleading country of origin claims. However, these do not offer any protection for other place of origin claims such as the regional claims and the use of other distinctive colours, pictures or logos that suggest a place of origin.
If you become aware of a supplier making false or misleading place of origin claims about food or other goods, you can lodge a complaint.
Country of origin claims – food labelling
The Country of Origin Food Labelling Standard 2016 under the ACL requires country of origin labels to appear on most food sold in Australia (aside from food sold in places like restaurants and cafes). There are various acceptable country of origin labels, involving standard words, graphics and logos (including the ‘Australian grown, Australian made’ green and gold kangaroo triangle logo and a bar chart graphic on Australian foods), that must be used from 1 July 2018 to comply with the information standard:
- ‘Grown in’ – usually used for fresh food to indicate the food was grown in that country, all significant ingredients are from that country and virtually all processing occurred in that country
- ‘Product of’ – commonly used for both fresh and processed foods to indicate all significant ingredients are from that country and virtually all processing occurred in that country
- ‘Made in’ – the food underwent its last substantial transformation in that country, excluding processes like slicing, canning, freezing, coating or repacking. It does not necessarily mean that any ingredients are from that country.
- ‘Packed in’ – where it was packed, where one of the other claims can not be made.
To help consumers understand the new country of origin food labels, more details are available at:
- the Country of origin page on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) website
- the Food Labels website www.foodlabels.industry.gov.au.
To help suppliers comply with the country of origin food labelling requirements, there are a range of online resources:
- the Country of origin food labelling page on the ACCC website
- the Country of origin food labelling guide for business on the ACCC website
- information and online tools to help suppliers choose the correct label for food products on the Country of origin food labelling page on the www.business.gov.au website.
Country of origin claims – goods other than food
For goods other than food, the ACL includes ‘safe harbour defences’ where suppliers can safely make a country of origin claim in advertising or on product packaging without it raising concerns under the law:
- ‘Grown in’ – all significant ingredients were grown in that country and virtually all processing occurred in that country
- ‘Produce of’ – all significant ingredients are from that country and virtually all processing occurred in that country
- ‘Made in’ or ‘manufactured in’ – the good underwent its last substantial transformation in that country. It does not necessarily mean that any ingredients are from that country.
- A logo or mark identified in an information standard relating to country of origin labelling of goods (currently only used for the country of origin food labels).
To use the ‘Australian grown, Australian made’ green and gold kangaroo triangle logo on non-food goods, suppliers need to be registered with Australian Made Campaign Limited, meet certain criteria and pay for a licence. The other graphics used for food labelling (such as the rectangle bar chart) can be used for non-food goods provided the meaning is clear and truthful.
For more detail about country of origin claims for non-food products:
- visit the Country of origin claims page on the ACCC website
- download the Country of origin claims and the Australian Consumer Law guide for business on the ACCC website
Other restrictions – geographic indications and trade marks
When making place of origin claim, particularly regional claims, suppliers should be careful to avoid infringing:
- geographical indications, including protected place names both inside and outside Australia, and
More details can be obtained from IP Australia website.