Current Issues

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry's Food Regulation Policy Section works with key stakeholders to develop food regulatory policy .

Primary Production and Processing Standards

Australia's food regulatory system is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to food safety along the entire food supply chain, and incorporates standards for primary production and processing. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry works with key departments in developing standards for primary products. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has completed Primary Production and Processing Standards for seafood; dairy; and eggs and egg products and is currently developing standards for seed sprouts; meat and meat products; and raw milk products.

Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy

The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council together with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) commissioned an independent review of Food Labelling Law and Policy, chaired by the Hon Neal Blewett AC. The final report, Labelling Logic, was presented to the government in January 2011. The review made 61 recommendations covering a wide range of food labelling issues. 

The Australian Government is now carefully considering the 61 recommendations in the report in light of the Government’s agenda to improve the productivity, innovation and international competitiveness of Australian businesses. The Council of Australian Governments will consider a response to the review in early 2012.

For further information: Food Labelling Review

For further information call 02 6272 5945 or email Food Regulation.

Free-Range Egg Labelling

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) is often contacted by groups wishing to express a view or highlight a particular issue. Recently DAFF has become aware that several web sites are encouraging people to write to the government seeking clearer definitions and labelling for free-range eggs. The government’s position is outlined below.

The Australian Government recognises that food labelling should be clear, comprehensible and effective in communicating information to protect public health and safety and support healthy food choices for consumers. The rules for labelling to achieve these goals are set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the code). All food for sale in Australia, whether produced domestically or imported, is required by law to comply with the code.

The code does not require information about particular methods of production, such as ‘free-range’, to be provided on food labels. However, it does require that the name and address of the supplier of the food is provided on the label. Consumers may wish to contact food companies directly if further information is required about their products, including the methods of production.

The Government also recognises the need for any claims made about the method of production on food labels to be truthful. Any such labelling information must be consistent with the requirements of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The Act prohibits false or misleading representations in connection with the supply of goods and requires suppliers to be honest in their advertising and labelling. If you consider the use of a term such as ‘free range’ on egg packaging is misleading, you may call the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on 1300 312 502 or visit the ACCC website to discuss your concerns. The ACCC, individuals or companies can take legal action on alleged breaches of the Act.

In their response to the independent review of food labelling law and policy, Commonwealth, state and territory ministers responsible for food regulation considered food labelling for consumer values, including animal welfare and methods of production such as free-range. Ministers agreed that consumer values labelling issues are more appropriately managed through industry-led schemes than through mandatory regulation. They urged the relevant livestock industries to pursue agreed voluntary standards for specific food production methods.

The Australian Government plays a strong leadership role in pursuing improved national animal welfare outcomes through the Standing Council on Primary Industries (SCoPI). SCoPI, through its Primary Industries Standing Committee (PISC), is working with industry to achieve a nationally consistent, industry–driven approach to labelling free-range eggs that provides meaningful information to consumers. DAFF, as Chair of the PISC, continues to monitor and contribute to the national debate on free-range egg production and labelling.

Each state and territory government is responsible for its own animal production and welfare legislation. The Australian Government has no legislative responsibility for this, but has played a leadership role by engaging with the states and territories to develop model codes of practice for the welfare of animals, including the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Domestic Poultry. The model codes aim to ensure that farm animals are treated humanely and responsibly in ways that are acceptable to the Australian community.

Other schemes have been developed by specific groups of producers such as the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia and the Australian Egg Corporation Limited, and by animal welfare organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Humane Choice.

Currently, there is no comprehensive, nationally uniform definition directly regulating the free-range egg market. PISC is leading work to review the model code and its subsequent transition to nationally agreed standards and guidelines on the welfare of poultry in food production systems.
Thank you for your interest in this important issue. For further information please phone 02 6272 5945 or email Food Regulation.

Mandatory Labelling of Palm Oil Campaigns

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) is often contacted by groups wishing to express a view or highlight a particular issue.¿ Recently DAFF has become aware that several web sites are encouraging people to write to the government seeking mandatory labelling of foods containing palm oil. The government’s position is outlined below.

The Australian Government recognises that food labelling should be clear, comprehensible and effective in communicating information to protect public health and safety and support healthy food choices for consumers.

All food for sale in Australia, whether produced domestically or imported, is required by law to comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. The code requires the ingredient list on a food label to declare the presence of fats or oils and whether the source is animal or vegetable. There is currently no requirement for palm oil to be specifically identified.¿ The code requires that food labels include the name and address of the supplier.¿ Consumers may use this information to contact food companies directly should they wish to find out whether that company’s products contain palm oil.

On 9 December 2011 the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (which replaced the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council) met to consider its response to the 61 recommendations in “Labelling Logic”, the report of the independent review of food labelling law and policy.

The final report of the review recommended mandatory labelling of the source of vegetable oils, including palm oil, in foods. Ministers asked Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to undertake a technical evaluation and provide advice about recommended changes to ingredient labelling, including for specific palm oil labelling. Such advice will assist in evaluating the expected benefits and cumulative impacts of possible changes to labelling requirements before any amendments to the Code are considered.

Australia promotes sustainable forest management through the implementation of the United Nations Non–Legally Binding Instrument on all Types of Forests. This instrument promotes the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests. The Australian Government also has bilateral memorandums of understanding with China, Korea and Papua New Guinea on forestry matters. ¿Globally, the Australian government is committed to ecological sustainability and funds projects worth over $300 million to protect biodiversity, address deforestation and illegal logging, and help protect orang-utans and their habitats in South East Asia. DAFF’s goal is to assist our forest industry to grow, promoting sustainable forest management, combating illegal logging and improve and capitalise on international opportunities while protecting the environment and contributing to the prosperity and quality of life in rural and regional Australia.

The Australian food industry is aware of consumer concerns about the impact of unsustainable palm oil production and is taking steps to limit the environmental impacts through initiatives such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), the national body representing Australia’s food and grocery manufacturers, supports the RSPO in its efforts to achieve sustainable palm oil production.¿ There are 22 members of RSPO in Australia, including food, cosmetic and grocery manufacturers and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC). Australian manufacturers claiming to use RSPO must be externally audited and certified by RSPO.

Currently, RSPO members represent about half the total volume of palm oil produced worldwide.¿

To date the RSPO has:

  • Established a Code of Conduct for its members
  • Defined Principles and Criteria outlining sustainable palm oil production
  • Approved independent certification bodies to audit palm oil mills and plantations and provide certificates to those meeting the RSPO’s criteria
  • Set up 4 certifications systems through which companies can purchase certified palm oil
  • Issues Communication and Marketing Guidelines to ensure that consumers receive accurate information on how the product they purchase contribute to sustainable palm oil production
  • Increased membership from 7 to over 450 organisations globally

By early May 2011, over 5 million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) had been produced and over 2.4 million tonnes had been taken up through one of RSPO’s certification systems. The most recent figures are available through the RSPO’s online Market Centre.

If consumers are concerned about whether food they have purchased contains palm oil or would like to obtain further details about specific foods, they can do so by contacting the manufacturer, whose details must be included on the label.

Thank you for your interest in this important issue. For further information please phone 02 6272 5945 or email Food Regulation.

Last reviewed:
29 Nov 2012