‘Australian’ label stripped from frozen fish
More than 30 frozen fish products will no longer be sold as being "made in Australia" after the consumer watchdog found the imported seafood was not "substantially transformed" from its overseas form before being packaged and sold.
Simplot Australia Pty Ltd has amended the country of origin labelling on 31 products sold as Birds Eye, I&J, Neptune and one home-brand product from "Made in Australia" to "Packed in Australia".
The ACCC carried out compliance checks on a range of frozen foods and became concerned the products were misleading consumers, as the imported frozen fish was not "substantially transformed" in Australia after being imported from New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States.
In a statement, the ACCC said under the consumer law's country of origin labelling provisions, if a food product "is packed in Australia without being substantially transformed, it cannot display a 'Made in Australia' mark".
"The products sold by Simplot's brands used fish imported from a number of countries, including New Zealand, United States and South Africa," the ACCC said.
"The ACCC's view is that only minor manufacturing processes occur in Australia, and when viewed collectively, the imported ingredients do not differ fundamentally from the manufactured goods.
"Simplot was of the view that slicing, crumbing and pan frying of the frozen fish constituted substantial transformation, justifying the use of the 'Made in Australia' mark."
After the ACCC raised concerns, Simplot agreed to change the labelling.
ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said the processes carried out by Simplot no longer qualify as "substantial transformation".
"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," Mr Keogh said.
"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."
Mr Keogh said he was pleased the company had co-operated with the investigation and agreed to make the changes to its labelling.
All Simplot frozen fish products manufactured after October 31, 2020 will have the "Packed in Australia" label.
Originally published as 'Australian' label stripped from frozen fish