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.
Foods covered by the Regulations 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.
After consulting with producers and traders, the Commerce Commission developed 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. 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.
In 2016, a Green Party bill to introduce compulsory country of origin labelling was pulled from ballot. The Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin Labelling) Bill was intended to introduce the labelling to not just all single ingredient foods but also to many multi-ingredient foods.
FGC made a submission to the select committee in May 2017. It is in the Submission section of this website
In July 2018, the Primary Production Select Committee issued an interim report and invited further submissions on changes made.
The report recommended covering only single types of food – fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and other seafood – which has been minimally processed. Under these proposed changes, cured meats like bacon, nuts, seeds, grains, tinned vegetable and fruit and mixed vegetables will not require country of origin labelling.
Detail such as the definitions of foods, what it means for a food to be ‘minimally processed’, and requirements for how disclosure can be made (e.g. through labels or signage) will be set out in the regulations which will be made after the bill is passed.
FGC made a submission on the changes, which it considered had significantly improved it.
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.