‘No plans’ to change fake meat label laws

Article by Chris McLennan courtesy of Stock Journal

Australia’s food label regulators are not planning to force fake meats to change their ways anytime soon.

This comes despite the outrage from Australian red meat industry lobby groups and many consumers over the point of sale ‘beef’ claims of many plant-based products.

Nor the legal moves being made, particularly in the United States, to force companies to change their claims.

Australia’s food labels are decided by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and change comes largely as a result of political involvement.

A FSANZ spokesman said the group “was aware of the interest in labelling of plant-based meat alternatives, both domestically and internationally”.

Last week, the Cattle Council of Australia and Red Meat Advisory Council called on FSANZ to intervene wanting the term ‘beef’ restricted to products which actually contain beef.

“It’s illegal to make use of someone else’s trademark and the same should go for highly processed products that try to mimic beef,” CCA chief executive Travis Tobin said.

The Red Meat Advisory Council has told the federal government the meat industry – cattle, sheep, goat and chicken – is united on the need to change labelling of plant-based products.

But the FSANZ spokesman said the group was not considering any changes to provisions in the Food Standards Code for the naming of food.

“In general, the code requires the name of a food to be sufficient to indicate its true nature,” the spokesman said.

“Some foods, including meat, are defined in the code and can only be sold using a specific name or representation if they meet the definition and any composition requirements.

“The code does allow use of a term such as ‘meat’ if the context makes it clear the food is not a food as defined in the code e.g. mince meat in fruit mince pies; bread in shortbread biscuits; beer in ginger beer.

“These provisions work in conjunction with consumer protection legislation which prevents misleading or deceptive conduct by food manufacturers.”

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud last year established the Plant-based Alternatives Labelling Working Group to discuss the labelling of plant-based products.

“I am sympathetic to concerns from producers of genuine meat and dairy products who are forced to contend with highly creative, and sometimes misleading advertising and labelling of plant-based foods and drinks,” he said.

A result from that working group was plant-based food companies offering to develop voluntary guidelines of the labelling of products.

The meat groups say they are “firmly of the belief” the plant-based manufacturers would not comply with a voluntary code and want changes to labelling laws.

Australian and New Zealand authorities have been wrestling with the issue of meat labelling since 2018.