Truth-in-labelling move

25 Feb, 2009 11:57 AM

IMPROVED meat labelling is gaining traction at the Fe-deral level following a com-mitment by the NSW Gov-ernment to push for changes in Canberra.

NSW Agriculture Minis-ter Ian Macdonald announced this week he will support a Bill introduced by NSW Independent MP Richard Torbay, which would make it illegal to falsely describe meat including beef, sheep, goat and pig in advertising, packaging, or labelling.

Mr Macdonald doesn't want NSW to "go it alone" though, and says for producers and consumers to see the benefits of better labelling, the scheme must go national.

Mr Torbay's "truth in labelling" drive, particularly for beef products, wants the existing labelling code to more accurately reflect meat quality and punish those who fail to label meat according to specific standards.

It complements moves already afoot to improve sheep meat labelling standards following an inquiry in Canberra last year which uncovered instances of lamb being substituted with mutton.

A national set of rules is being drawn up by sheep-meat bodies to avoid future cases of mutton and hogget being passed off to the consumer as lamb.

It was claimed last year that some processors had been cashing in on the booming demand (and prices) for lamb but substituting it for older hogget or mutton meat instead.

Unnamed Victorian processors were accused in the inquiry of being the main culprits, buying older sheep in NSW and then processing them and sending them back to butchers in Sydney as prime cuts of lamb.

The committee did hear concerns about beef labelling also, which it will investigate further this year.

While a voluntary labelling code has been in place for the past seven years in the beef industry, critics say it simply isn't working because the penalties are not harsh enough and consumers are the poorer for it.


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