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									Submitted via email - FoodLabellingReview@health.gov.au

20 November 2009

Dr Neal Blewett
C/o Food Labelling Review Secretariat
Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council
Department of Health and Ageing
MDP 150
GPO Box 9848
Canberra ACT 2601 Australia


Dear Dr Blewett,
                            Submission by Animals Australia
                                                to the
                                          Ministerial Council

                           Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy

Animals Australia is a peak animal protection organisation, representing forty member societies and
thousands of individual members and supporters. We appreciate the opportunity to provide our input
to this review.

Consumer demand for increased welfare for factory-farmed animals

Animal welfare is an important issue for Australians, demonstrated through community polls and
politically recently through the establishment of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy and its ongoing
funding by the federal government. That Australian‟s care about animal welfare is reflected in the
results of a survey conducted for the pig and egg industry by Professor Grahame Coleman of Monash
University. 60% of respondents agreed with the statement that “welfare of animals is a major concern”,
while 71% agreed that “farm animal welfare is an important consideration”i.

In relation to food, interest in animal welfare is evidenced by the increasing number of people that are
becoming concerned about cruel practices inflicted on the large numbers of animals which are
'factory-farmed'. This concern is expressed through the growing demand for more ethically produced
products such as free range eggs and free range and organic meat products. For example, the market
share of free range eggs has increased from just 5.5% in 2000ii to an estimated 26.8% of eggs being
free range and 5.5% barn laid of all eggs sold in the grocery/retail sector in 2009iii.

As indicated by the growth in free range eggs sales (and similar is occurring for free range chicken
and pork), increasing numbers of consumers are willing to pay extra for more ethically produced food.
Despite the current economical downturn, 95% of consumers in a recent survey stated they are
prepared to do soiv. Further evidence was documented in a 2007 report to show that the Australian
consumer is willing to pay more for “cruelty-free” meat productsv.
Another indicator of consumer “willingness to pay” is the fact that some sellers of animal food products
are prepared to mislabel their products as “free range” or “organic” (and thereby break the law), in
order to be able to charge the higher prices commanded by those productsvi. Evidence is also
provided by some producers attempting to 'cash in' on consumer interest in 'free range' products is the
misleading labels, names and imagery used on some factory-farmed produce. Some battery-cage egg
farmers or retailers adopt company names or product ranges implying a farm situation e.g. 'Country
Barn', 'Country House', 'Mother Hens', 'Farm Fresh', 'Natural Grain' and 'Happy Hens', despite coming
from huge intensive facilities. The imagery on some battery egg cartons is also seemingly designed to
give an impression other than an indoor cage environment (see attached image of the 'Hunter Valley'
battery-cage egg carton hen - by Farmpride eggs in Victoria). Similarly factory-farmed meat chicken
companies have adopted the term 'Free to Roam' which means only that they are not caged, but it is
not further explained that the chickens are raised in a large shed with up to 60,000 other chickens at a
density of up to 40kg/sqm.

The meat industry in Australia has rejected calls by Animals Australia and others to clearly label
products to indicate the type of production (housing/husbandry) system used. They seemingly take the
view that Australian consumers will not pay for higher welfare standards i.e. free range rather than
factory-farmed animal products. This claim is unsubstantiated, and in fact the evidence (above and
elsewhere) shows that once consumers become aware of factory farm methods of production, most
are keen to seek more ethical products.

The persistent barrier at present is that few Australians are aware of the nature of animal's lives on
farms, and thus the 'demand' for the products produced by the intensive farming industry has not
properly been gauged. This was clearly demonstrated in a recent Government-funded report which
found that „Particular practices of intensive farming were seen by some as extreme (negative)
practices, but these were not seen as normal practice'vii.

Consumer right to informative and trustworthy information on products

The Terms of Reference for this review acknowledges the importance of the policy purpose to enable
consumers to make informed choices. It equally acknowledges the role food labelling laws serve in
achieving this policy purpose as well as the objective of food laws to prevent misleading or deceptive
conduct in relation to food. This view is widely shared by the Australian community. A recent
consumer surveyviii shows that 98% of Australian citizens believe "full and adequate labelling is every
consumer‟s right".

To enable the growing number of consumers who want to buy animal welfare friendly products to buy
the products they wish to consume - and to recognise products they wish not to buy and consume -
consumers need to be provided with honest information that tells them about the issues important for
their choices.

Currently, a majority of consumers feels that existing labels do not give enough information to make
informed purchasing decisions on animal welfare issuesix. This feeling is well founded in the enormous
amount of undefined and unregulated claims and 'labels' on animal derived products.

Very recently publications about false labelling of cage eggs as free range eggs and intensively reared
pork and chicken meat as being free range contributed to consumer loss of confidence in production
system related claimsx.

The lack of regulation on food labels concerning production methods leaves consumers confused
about the claims on packaging and is damaging the confidence they have in the food industry. This
will also damage consumers trust in other forms of food labelling, as it is unlikely that they will be
aware of differences in labelling regulation.
Producers' right to be protected from false competition

Maintaining or increasing the competitiveness of Australian businesses is part of the objective of the
review. For this objective it is essential to have a level playing field. Therefore, preventing misleading
or deceptive conduct in relation to food is not only of importance for consumers, but equally for
producers of food. This is particularly the case for producers of more ethically produced food products
which naturally have higher production costs due particularly to higher labour costs. These producers
should not face unfair competition from producers that mislabel their products to be able to charge a
higher price.

It is only fair that producers who seek to improve animal welfare by moving away from intensive
animal farming methods should be able to get a fair return for any increased costs involved in that
move. Animal welfare labelling is a necessary first step. Clear labelling to indicate the housing system
and husbandry methods used is required to enable consumers to make an informed choice on their
product purchases and to ensure that producers of animal welfare friendly products get any price
premium benefit associated with the change.

For this to work sucessfully it is necessary that the improvements in animal welfare be based on
properly assessed and monitored standards (and this must be done by an independent body). In
Europe, this approach has been adopted by the Council of Ministers of the European Union. The
Council has also directed that production of meat chickens should be the subject of a report on a
mandatory labelling scheme based on compliance with animal welfare standardsxi.

At the moment in Australia there is a confusing range of terms which have been introduced by
producers seeking to gain the commercial advantage of convincing the buyer of meat products and
eggs that the products they are buying are “cruelty free”. The term most frequently used is “free
range”. This term has no enforceable definition, although several industry bodies have set their own
“free range” standards. Recent findings of false labelling of cage eggs as free range eggs and
intensively reared pork and chicken meat as being free rangexii show that some intensive producers
misuse the lack of labelling standards and monitoring to receive the price premium they don't deserve
and therefore provide unfair competition to genuine producers of animal welfare friendly products.

Note: The example of the labelling of egg cartons in Australia with the three recognized housing
systems - cage eggs, barn laid eggs and free range eggs - whilst welcomed in principle and in the
main, is not a good model because of several deficiencies in its introduction and use. Consumer
confidence has been dented due to the absence of credible independent assurance systems to protect
the integrity of the product (i.e. fears of battery cage eggs in free range cartons). Further, there is
currently no consistent „point of sale‟ consumer information about the elements of each system, and
confusing „logos‟ or descriptors such as „farm fresh‟ or „natural grain fed‟ and farm scene designs (as
discussed earlier) on battery cage egg cartons mislead customers.

Common wish for mandatory labelling by consumers and producers

The Terms of Reference for this review mentions a difference in policy drivers for laws imposing
mandatory labelling requirements as usually sought by consumer stakeholders, or standards creating
voluntary labelling permissions usually sought by industry (e.g. to make product claims).

We wish to point out that regarding animal derived products there is no such disparity but in fact a
common wish for mandatory labelling amongst consumers and producers of animal welfare friendly
products. In our experience it is only the intensive (factory farming) animal industries - of which
members are currently utilising the absence of such mandatory labelling to mislead consumers - that
are opposed to mandatory housing and husbandry labelling.
Costs of labelling

The system used to provide assessment and assurance of credible labelling in the animal products
area could utilise systems already in place – industry quality assurance programs. Over the past
decade each of the egg (Egg Corp Assured), meat chicken and pig industries (APIQ) have introduced
national quality assurance programs which incorporate animal welfare sections. The Egg Corp
Assured program already incorporates the national standards for labelling – i.e. the use of the words
'cage eggs', 'barn laid' and 'free range' eggs. This however of course begs the question about further
oversight and independent assessment to avoid the problems of misuse outlined above, and also the
misuse of other aspects of labelling, images and brand names which may mislead.

Conclusion and recommendation

Australians are increasingly concerned with the welfare of farm animals. A majority of Australians are
willing to pay more for animal welfare friendly products. However, the absence of nationally-applicable
terms and clear labeling methods based on legislation which defines the animal welfare status of meat
products and eggs impairs the ability of consumers to make informed choices and leaves genuine
“cruelty-free” producers open to unfair competition from producers who mis-label their products in
order to get a price advantage.

It is clear that the market has failed to regulate itself. Too many producers are falsely claiming welfare
advantages for their products to receive a price premium. Others continue to refuse to provide
production type information to ensure consumers remain largely unaware of the origin of animal
products particularly in regard to pork and chicken products. The government has to step in to protect
consumers from being deceived and protect some producers from unfair competition.

An important first step in establishing a workable and enforceable animal welfare food labelling system
is to establish a definition for terms such as "free range".

Animals Australia contends that the other primary need is for all pork, chicken and egg products to be
labeled to prominently and clearly indicate the method of housing and husbandry used in the breeding
and raising of these animals. As indicated in the Government-initiated survey documented above,
Australians consider intensive farming practices to be an animal welfare negative, but do not realize
those methods are the norm in Australia for these products.

Animals Australia submits that the Committee should consider recommending:
   1. the establishment of a uniform nation-wide and enforceable system of labeling organic, free-
      range and intensively produced meat products and eggs;
   2. the labelling system be based on quantifiable standards;
   3. the labelling system be overseen and regularly audited by a body which is independent of
      industry and accountable to Government, and
   4. meat and egg producers seeking to use the labelling system would be able to apply for
      accreditation and be audited regularly by that independent body.

Please contact us if further information or clarification of this submission would be of assistance.

Yours sincerely,




Glenys Oogjes
Executive Director
Animals Australia
37 O'Connell Street
North Melbourne 3051
(03) 9329 6333

www.AnimalsAustralia.org
i
   See G Coleman, Public perceptions of animal pain and animal welfare in Australian Animal Welfare Strategy
Science Summit on Pain and Pain Management, May 2007 – Proceedings
(at http://www.daff.gov.au/_data/assets/pdf_file/0006/299103/grahame-coleman.pdf)
ii
    SCARM Working Group, Synopsis Report on the Review of Layer Hen Housing and Labelling of Eggs in
Australia, June 2000
iii
    Australian Egg Corporation Ltd 2009 annual report.
iv
    Humane Society International Australia, 2009 National Consumer Survey, November 2009
v
    See Voiceless, summary of survey results in From Label to Liable: Scams, Scandals and Secrecy, 2007
vi
    See for example ACCC v GO Drew Pty Ltd [2007] FCA 1246
vii
     TNS Social Research, Attitudes towards animal welfare (page 14), 2006
viii
     Humane Society International Australia, 2009 National Consumer Survey, November 2009
ix
    Humane Society International Australia, 2009 National Consumer Survey, November 2009
x
    The Age, High noon on the range, 29 September 2009
xi
    Council Directive 2007/43/EC, 28 June 2007
xii
     The Age, High noon on the range, 29 September 2009

								
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