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October 13, 2022

Queensland hospitality venues would have to label imported seafood on their menus under proposed changes to legislation set to be debated this week.

Key points:

  • Queensland MP for Traeger Robbie Katter says labelling seafood is a “fair thing to do customers”
  • Mr Katter says restaurant owners can put an “I” on menus to indicate imported seafood
  • The federal government has indicated it wants to implement country-of-origin labelling at a national level

Queensland MP for Traeger Robbie Katter introduced the seafood labelling bill to the Queensland parliament at the end of last year, with the bill to be debated tomorrow.

Mr Katter told ABC Radio Brisbane labelling the origin of seafood was a “fair thing to do for customers”.

“There’s huge potential, particularly in the aquaculture industry, but we get beaten by overseas imports,” he said.

“And, you know, strangely, the federal government passed laws that … if you go to the supermarket, you have to have country of origin labelling, but they didn’t extend it, unfortunately, [to] hospitality.

“So if you go to the fish and chip shop, the pub, anywhere, you can be eating Mekong Delta sea bass, and that’s one of the most polluted rivers in the world and it can be called barramundi legally.”

Mr Katter said telling customers seafood was imported could be as simple as putting an “I” to signal imported on menus in the same way “GF” was used to label gluten-free items.

NT only jurisdiction to enforce imported labels

The Northern Territory is the only Australian jurisdiction to require dining venues to label seafood that is imported or with its country of origin.

The Albanese government has also flagged it intends to implement country-of-origin labelling at a national level.

Similar legislation put forward by the New South Wales Labour party in opposition has previously failed, while the LNP in Victoria has promised if elected, it will introduce a bill to ensure venues specify if seafood was caught in Australia or imported.

Australian Foodservice Advocacy Body director Wes Lambert said the majority of small hospitality businesses received seafood from their suppliers.

However, he said the origin changed with every delivery, which would mean businesses would constantly need to reprint menus.

“This request may create an unfounded bias that imported seafood is somehow inferior to domestic seafood, and certainly at a time when the hospitality industry is just recovering from COVID, more red tape is not good for the industry,” Mr Lambert said.

Mr Lambert cautioned that labelling the country of origin for seafood would lead to other products needing to be labelled on menus.

“Will restaurant menus have [to label] every single item, every single ingredient on every menu item, [with] country of origin required … as other industries want their locally grown produce to receive top billing?” he said.

Mr Lambert said the hospitality industry would be receptive to a requirement where menus, similar to food labels, noted the products included both domestic or imported ingredients.

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