Organic labelling crack down underway in Australia

In response to stories of misleading claims, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned Australian food manufacturers that it will take action against products using terms like "organic" and "pure" if they do not meet their label claims.

The ACCC issued guidelines to clarify what constitutes labelling ambiguity, allowing for tighter and speedier enforcement of the Trade Practices Act, which governs claims breaches. The ACCC is particularly concerned by "the apparent upswing in terms like organic and free-range where business seeks to take advantage of strong consumer demand and where the absence of regulation may provide opportunity for some business to engage in unlawful conduct."

The ACCC guidelines outline appropriate usage off terms such as "organic," "natural," "pure," "free-range" and "fresh."

"We're not trying to stop these claims but just indicating that there are issues that come under fair compliance," ACCC commissioner John Martin told "If companies do think there's a question mark or grey area, they need to get expert advice. We've been pretty strict already but in some areas where compliance has been made clearer we could be stricter now."

"The ACCC believes that consumers would have a reasonable expectation that a food describing itself to be natural or pure should not contain food additives or artificial preservatives. Unfortunately in the past this has not always been the case," the ACCC said.

In the US, market researcher The Hartman Group noted "local" was becoming a more meaningful term than "organic" for many consumers. "While interest in all things organic will continue to flourish, there will be a not-too-subtle shift toward products and providers that align themselves with the values that organic represents," it said. "'Local' is taking on new meaning and importance with consumers largely due to the very large shadow organics has cast on food origins and food quality. To be sure, 'local' is one of the hottest quality cues right now in the world of food."

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