From Next Month, Food Labels Will Look a Little Different

With new country of origin labelling rules coming into effect next month, working out where our food comes from is about to get easier.

Under the Consumer Information Standards (Origin of Food) Regulations, businesses must let consumers know where certain foods come from. The rules will apply to fresh and thawed food from February 12 and to frozen food from May next year.

Foods which will be required to display country of origin details – either on the food, its packaging, or a sign nearby – include fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and shellfish, and cured pork. Products with multiple ingredients, such as a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, and food sold for fundraising or to be eaten immediately (at restaurants or takeaway outlets) will not be covered.

Country of origin labelling is currently voluntary in New Zealand, meaning Kiwis could be unwittingly consuming large quantities of imported food. The origins of pork products in particular have been a hot topic in recent years.

Under current rules, a ham could be labelled “Made in New Zealand” even if the animal it came from was raised and slaughtered elsewhere. According to NZ Pork, almost 50,000 tonnes of pork was imported from 31 countries in the first 10 months of last year.

Some of it was produced using farming practices banned in New Zealand or sourced from regions afflicted by diseases such as African swine fever and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome. Most was processed further in New Zealand which, under current rules, meant it could be marketed as “Made in New Zealand”.

The Government began consulting on country-of-origin labelling regulations after laws designed to give consumers clarity around the origin of food products were passed in late 2018.

But in May 2020, MBIE announced a 12-month delay in recommending the regulations and pushed them to June 2021, to come into effect six months later.

A further delay, attributed to Covid-19 disruption, was announced in September last year.

Until the regulations come into force, the Fair Trading Act will continue to prohibit businesses from making false or misleading claims about goods, including claims made about the country of origin of foods.