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September 7, 2022

Cecilware ccp24

Restaurants and fish and chip shops may soon be required to tell customers where the seafood being served has come from, as the federal government considers how to fulfil its commitment to implement mandatory country of origin labelling within the industry.   

Key points:

  • Country of origin labelling is to become mandatory within the seafood and hospitality sectors
  • By law, supermarkets must provide a product’s provenance
  • The WA Fishing Industry Council says it has received advice from government it is working to bring labelling into effect

The seafood industry, including the WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), has been lobbying government for years to introduce labelling, in an effort to boost demand for Australian seafood. 

WAFIC chief executive Darryl Hockey said he has received a letter from federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt indicating the minister supported the introduction of country of origin labelling in the hospitality industry. 

“He is going to be working with us to explore various options to introduce this country of origin [labelling] this term of government,” Mr Hockey said. 

“He also said that he wants to work closely with the hospitality sector as well in a bid to make sure that it is harmonised.”

Clearer labelling to support meat and plant industries is one of many commitments made by Labor prior to this year’s election win. 

The party also specifically committed to working with the seafood and hospitality sectors to implement mandatory country of origin labelling to support the Australian seafood industry.

Cecilware ccp24 cooked fish and chips with lemon

Country of origin labelling is not mandatory in fish and chip shops, but that may soon change.(ABC News: Cameron Atkins)

Mr Hockey pointed to mandatory labelling in retail, and said the same transparency should apply to seafood served in hospitality.   

“It has got to the point in Western Australia that 70 per cent of the seafood consumed in the state is imported and only 30 per cent of it is local,” he said. 

“Of course there is always a temptation at the hospitality level to actually try to sell food that people think is local when in fact it is not.

“We don’t want people to have a bad food experience with food that has come from overseas, so we think that the customer has the right to make the informed choice as to what they are buying, and we believe that adds integrity to the system.”

Cecilware ccp24 a prepared scallop in a shell

Seafood in restaurants could soon come with compulsory country of origin labelling.(ABC Rural: Jo Prendergast)

Working to ‘get it right’

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt’s office directed the ABC’s enquiries to Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic. 

In a statement, Mr Husic said, “the department is working on the best way to take this commitment forward, which will include engaging with stakeholders.The government is considering all of its election commitments in the budget to be handed down on October 25.”

Mr Husic said country of origin labelling had a “complex history” and he wanted to ensure “we take the time needed to get it right”.

“This includes taking all previous investigations into account, gathering a comprehensive evidence base to inform decisions, and working closely with the seafood industry and hospitality sector to consider options for implementing mandatory labelling.
“The aim is to develop a workable approach, while minimising costs and burden of compliance.”

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