Birds Eye crumbed fish … slicing, crumbing and par-frying isn’t enough to justify a “Made In Australia” mark, the ACCC has ruled

November 9, 2020

Country of origin labelling on 31 popular frozen fish products will be changed from “Made in Australia” to “Packed in Australia” following concerns raised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The frozen fish products were sold under the brand names of Birds Eye, I&J, Neptune and one home brand product.

Following compliance checks across a range of frozen foods, the ACCC was concerned the products displayed a “Made in Australia” mark when the imported frozen fish may not have been “substantially transformed” in Australia.

Under the Australian Consumer Law, if a food product is packed in Australia without being substantially transformed, it cannot display a “Made in Australia” mark.

The products used fish imported from a number of countries including New Zealand, the United States and South Africa.

The ACCC’s view was that only minor manufacturing processes had occurred in Australia.

Simplot Australia Pty Ltd claimed that slicing, crumbing and par-frying of the frozen fish constituted substantial transformation, justifying the use of the “Made in Australia” mark.  However, after the ACCC raised its concerns, the company agreed to change its country of origin labelling.  

Simplot is a wholly owned subsidiary of the United States-based company J.R. Simplot.

“Processes that only change the form or appearance of imported ingredients or components no longer qualify as substantial transformation,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

“Country of origin labels are designed to inform consumers, some of whom may be willing to pay a premium for products they think are made in a particular country, especially Australia.

“Not only can incorrect labelling wrongly influence consumers into purchasing a certain product, it can also give a competitive advantage to those who use the ‘Made in Australia’ label in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

“We are pleased that Simplot co-operated with the ACCC investigation and agreed to make changes to its labelling, and on this basis we decided to resolve this matter administratively without taking enforcement action.”

All Simplot frozen fish products manufactured after October 31 will have the “Packed in Australia” mark but products with the “Made in Australia” mark may still be available in stores until sold out.

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