New regulations taking effect this weekend will give consumers more information about where their food comes from.
From 12 February 2022, businesses must comply with the new Consumer Information Standards (Origin of Food) Regulations that apply to certain fresh and thawed foods: fruit, vegetables, finfish, shellfish, and cured pork such as ham, bacon, and prosciutto. If these foods are frozen, they must state the country of origin from 12 May 2023.
“Mandatory country of origin information will let consumers know where certain food comes from and help them make informed decisions when they are buying these products,” said General Manager Fair Trading Vanessa Horne.
Foods covered by the Regulations will need to state the country of origin on the packaging or on a sign nearby.
For example, bananas from Ecuador will need to be clearly identified as being from Ecuador, either on packaging, labels or signage placed on or next to the shelf.
Horne said the Commission has consulted with a range of food producers and traders to develop guidance for businesses about the new Consumer Information Standards (Origin of Food) Regulations 2021, to help them understand what types of food are included and what they need to do to comply with the Regulations.
The Regulations apply to single ingredient food, meaning packages of mixed foods such as a bag of frozen peas and corn will not be covered. Meatballs containing herbs, onions and garlic will not be covered, nor will a container of red and green grapes. Most processed foods are also excluded.
The Regulations will not apply to fundraising events, or where the food will be eaten immediately, for example at restaurants and takeaway outlets.
Failure to comply with the Regulations would breach the Fair Trading Act 1986 and could result in an infringement notice requiring payment of a $1,000 infringement fee per offence or fine of up to $30,000 for each offence.
The Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Act was passed in 2018. The Act required the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to recommend a consumer information standard (to be made via regulations) by 4 June 2021.
On 10 May 2021, the Consumer Information Standards (Origin of Food) Regulations 2021 (the Regulations) were made under the Fair Trading Act 1986. These Regulations give effect to the requirements in the Act by setting the detailed country of origin labelling requirements.
The Regulations were due to commence on 12 November 2021. Recognising the significant disruption caused by the re-emergence of COVID-19 in the community, on 9 September 2021 the Government delayed the commencement of the Regulations by three months. More information is available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment webpage.
Non-compliance with the new Regulations
Failure to comply with the Regulations would breach the Fair Trading Act 1986 and could result in an infringement notice requiring payment of a $1,000 infringement fee per offence. For serious non-compliance the Commission may choose to prosecute. Companies may be fined up to $30,000 for each offence and individuals can be fined up to $10,000 for each offence.
It is also an offence under section 13(j) of the Fair Trading Act to make a false or misleading representation concerning the place of origin of goods or services. This offence carries a much higher maximum penalty of $600,000 per breach for companies and $200,000 for individuals.
Consumers can contact the Commerce Commission with information about traders not complying with the Regulations – either through our website or by calling us. We can’t investigate all the complaints we receive, but we value all complaint information because it helps us identify possible concerns and to prioritise our work.