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Calls for restaurant menu labelling ramps up

Australian produce dominates the menu at many cafes and restaurants, but that isn’t the case for a large portion of the hospitality industry, in particular, the seafood we consume.

The seafood industry is calling for Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) to be extended to menus across restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs and local fish and chip shops.

This push for transparent menu labelling comes in line with the introduction of the new food labelling laws which came into effect on July 1, 2018. You’ll still see the familiar green and gold kangaroo in a triangle on this new labelling system, but there is an indication bar that will tell the consumer what percentage of Australian produce is in the product. The new labels will apply to most foods offered for retail sale, giving people little doubt over what’s grown here and what’s not.

The new laws won’t extend to the hospitality industry – and it’s becoming a “growing concern” for consumers. Agricultural Commissioner, Mike Keogh, said the ACCC had been focussed on the new Country of Original Labelling system in the retail space and how to enforce it but was “certainly aware of labelling on food service menus as an emerging issue, especially around providence and credence claims, which are becoming more and more important to consumers”.

“Consumers are increasingly looking for an information package along with their commodity; particularly in premium markets, restaurants and food service etc,” he said.

or a country that prides itself on its wide array of beautiful, fresh and locally sourced seafood, it will shock consumers to know that 70% of Australia’s fish is important – and that figure is only increasing!

Seafood Council of the Northern Territory chief executive Katherine Winchester believes this is partly because the food service industry is not required to declare the country of origin on their menus.

“Lower quality seafood coming in means consumers [know they] are eating barramundi, but not necessarily what barramundi they are eating,” she said. “Is it Australian, wild-caught Australian, farmed or imported?”

This statement comes following a recent article on ABC reporting that wild-caught barramundi prices have plummeted by 40%, with freezers full of Australian barramundi that fishermen simply can’t sell. Part of the issue was apparently due to a few years of low breeding and high-cost which has turned chefs to farmed or imported barramundi.

The labelling scheme for food service menus would mean the end of shonky restaurants falsely advertising Australian produce and meat products. However, according to the federal competition watch dog, this is an aspect of the law that’s “difficult to police.”

It’s then up to the consumer or the individual establishment to be transparent about where they source the items on their menu.

What do you think? Should menus include labelling? Do you already proudly advertise your suppliers? Let us know!

About Suncoast Fresh

Suncoast Fresh have a strong focus on sourcing the best wholesale produce for the best price each season. Along with farm-direct bulk fruit and vegetables, we offer a boutique produce range including our wild foraged coastal mix for restaurants, cafes, schools, food festivals and more. Stay up to date with our Fresh Produce Update or apply to be a customer.

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