Products made here are said to be better for the economy, the planet and your health. Georgia Ricard reveals how to tell what’s what.
If you want to buy products made in Australia, you’re not alone – according to 2006 research by Roy Morgan, more than two-thirds of us try to do just that whenever we can. But while buying Australian products used to be a simple matter of buying Australian brands, it’s a different story these days. Many iconic brands are now owned by foreign companies, while Australian-owned businesses often sell imported products. And with all the confusing labels and misleading advertising, it can seem almost impossible to know where your money’s going! But you can work out how to buy Australian-made – and with this guide, it’s simple.
Reading the labels
Products don’t have to be entirely produced in Australia to be labelled as such. According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand, different labels mean different things.
This label means the product was ‘substantially transformed’ in Australia, with more than 50% of the production or manufacturing cost incurred here. Although processed here, these products often still contain imported ingredients – a bottle of tomato sauce, for example, could be ‘made’ in Australia using tomatoes imported from Italy.
A label found on many food products. This means all of the significant ingredients you’re buying must have come from Australia with all, or almost all, of the production and manufacturing taking place here. You’ve probably seen this on things like jars of pasta sauce or next to stands of loose fruit.
Are there any industry labels I can look for?
Although many Australian-made products carry the distinctive green and gold emblem, it’s a little-known fact that companies wishing to use this logo on their packaging are required to pay a fee – so not all products will have it. If you’re looking for Aussie products, it’s best to check the fine print instead.
Why is there no label on my food?
Even though most foods require labelling, some unpackaged products are not legally required to list their country of origin. This includes popular products such as vegetable oils, fresh lamb, chicken, eggs, dairy products, beef, and grains.
There are also instances when foods that would normally require labelling are exempt from the rules: fruit, vegetables, nuts, seafood, fresh pork and pork products such as bacon and ham don’t require labels when mixed in with other foods, such as fruit pieces in cheese.
How to buy Australian
Fresh fruit and vegetables
If you’re looking at a stand of apples or a container of loose almonds, for example, check for a label or sign near the food – your grocer is legally required to list these products’ origins on a nearby sign.
Processed or packaged fruit and vegies
Buying dried apricots, a bag of oranges or canned pears? Check the label on the packet – the information should be clearly legible to the average person.
Labelling is required on all food containing fish – even when it’s mixed with other foods, such as in a salmon paté. This also includes unpackaged fresh and smoked fish fillets, frozen unpackaged crumbed fish fillets and any fish product that comes in a packet.
Although you will find the information for fresh pork and preserved pork products like bacon and ham listed either on the package or on a nearby sign, it’s not mandatory for other common meats – including lamb, chicken and beef – to list their origins. If you do find this information on a pack, it’s because that company has chosen voluntarily to state their product’s origins – information that’s expected to comply with Australian fair trading requirements. Ask your meat supplier for more information.
Reasons to buy Australian
It’s good for you
Health experts often point out the benefits of buying Australian-made. Fruit and vegetables travelling long distances are more likely to suffer vitamin depletion, so locally-grown produce usually maintains higher levels of vitamins and minerals. Buying produce only when it’s in season is also healthier because it means you’re getting more variety – and more nutrient variety – instead of eating the same all year-round.
It’s good for the environment
The average Australian shopping basket has travelled more than 70,000 km from its producer to reach you. That’s the equivalent of travelling two-and-a-half times across Australia! But buying groceries from local suppliers can help reduce pollution, by cutting down on ‘food miles’ – the distance it takes to transport food from the farm to your fork. Fresh and frozen produce bought locally also reduces the need for refrigerated storage and transport – which makes up almost 15% of the entire food industry’s energy use each year.
We all remember the ads on TV encouraging us to buy Australian – it helps boost our economy by supporting our local farmers and businesses, which allows them to provide goods to us at affordable prices, lowering cost for quality products.
What to look for
It can be difficult to tell what’s Australian-made, but things to look for on the label include:
The words ‘Made in Australia using Australian ingredients’.
The words ‘Product of Australia’.
The green and gold ‘Australian-made’ label.
Labels that list ‘local’ before ‘imported’ – this means the larger proportion of ingredients used are Australian.