Fresh or unpackaged food
While some fresh or unpackaged food does not require a label, a retailer must, if asked, provide certain information.
Some food is exempt from general labelling requirements. An exemption applies if the food is:
- in an ‘inner’ package, not designed for sale without the outer package
- made and packaged on the premises from which it is sold, eg. in a deli
- packaged in the presence of the purchaser
- whole or cut fruit and vegetables, in a package which displays the nature and the quality of the food except for sprouting seeds
- delivered packaged and ready for consumption at the order of the consumer, eg. a pizza delivery
- sold at a fundraising event.
All these foods must still either display warning and advisory statements next to the product or supply this information if requested by a consumer.
Examples of food that isn't pre-packaged or labelled includes items sold from the bakery, butcher, deli counter, salad bar, or food weighed and sold loose. It also includes meals served in restaurants, cafés, takeaways and other eating-out venues.
Even if the food is fresh or unpackaged the retailer must, if asked, provide information about:
- any ingredients that are allergens
- directions for storing and/or preparing the food if these are required to ensure its safe use
- the country of origin of the food
- the nutrient content, if a nutrition claim is made on packaged food
- if a nutrition claim is made, its nutrient content (as required on packaged food)
- the % of fat, if a claim about fat is made
- the proportion of the characterising ingredient in a mixed food (eg. the proportion of 'strawberry' in 'Strawberry flavoured yoghurt')
- whether the food contains a genetically modified ingredient or is irradiated
- the proportion of offal in a meat mix
- whether a meat product is fermented, eg. salami.
Under the Food Standards Code any unpackaged seafood displayed for retail sale must include a label indicating the country where the seafood was harvested, processed or manufactured. This applies to:
fresh seafood, either by itself or mixed with other ingredients
fish that has undergone a process such as cooking, drying, salting, smoking – either with or without other added ingredients.
Restaurants, cafes and take-away shops are exempt from the country of origin requirements where the food is only sold for immediate consumption. Fish shops that sell both cooked seafood and fresh seafood to be taken home and cooked further are required to label the seafood with the country of origin.
What are the requirements?
Seafood displayed for retail sale is required to:
- identify the country or countries of origin of the food (including Australia), or
- where the seafood includes other ingredients, indicate that the seafood is a mix of local and/or imported ingredients.
In addition, the writing on the label is required to be in English and in at least 9 mm high lettering.
- NSW caught swordfish must be labelled 'Product of Australia'
- Vietnamese basa must be labelled 'Product of Vietnam'
- Malaysian prawns marinated in imported olive oil and local garlic – 'Made from imported and local ingredients'
- Indonesian tuna fully processed in New Zealand where cost of processing is over 50% of the total cost – "Made in New Zealand from imported tuna” or “Made in New Zealand from Indonesian tuna"
- Imported fish fillets, crumbed, par-cooked, frozen and packaging in Australia – “Made in Australia” or "Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients".
Naming of seafood
Under the Food Act 2003 (NSW) it is an offence to describe food incorrectly. This includes calling one type of seafood another, more commonly known as seafood substitution.
It is recommended that you use the names in the Australian Fish Names List. This list, which includes names for fish, crustaceans and shellfish, was developed in consultation with industry and government and is maintained by Seafood Services Australia. You can obtain a copy of the seafood names list from:
Fisheries Research & Development Corporation www.fishnames.com.au or
call 1300 130 321
Penalties for non-compliance
Incorrect country of origin labelling can result in fines ranging from $330 to $660 for each incorrect label. Repeated incorrect labelling can also result in penalties of $55,000 for individuals and $275,000 for corporations.
Fines for falsely describing seafood range from $660 to $1320. Repeated incorrect naming can also result in penalties of $55,000 for individuals and $275,000 for corporations.