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Senate inquiry launched into food labelling laws

Beef Central, 16/06/2021

In response to complaints from the Australian red meat industry, Queensland Senator, Susan McDonald, has launched a Senate Inquiry into food labelling laws that will investigate if terms such as “meat-free mince”, “sausage made with plants” and “vegan bacon” pass muster.

The former butcher-shop owner showed some chops by recently helping establish the Parliamentary Friends of Red Meat advocacy group.

She said it was up to makers of non-meat products to come up with their own distinct terms instead of trading off long-established names of animal proteins.

“There are intellectual property issues, and in our export legislation we have clear definitions of meat being the product of an animal, but there are gaps domestically,” she said.

“The industry invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year to develop and enhance the intellectual property and benefits of red meat in Australia, and it’s important that these investments are protected.

“Just like winemakers wanting exclusive use of some wine names, I feel strongly that our Aussie red meat industry should have sole use of product names that have meant only one thing for centuries.”

Red Meat Advisory Council chairman, John McKillop, said graziers had had enough.

“It is a national disgrace that highly processed plant-based protein made from imported ingredients are allowed to be labelled as Australian meat,” he said.

“Every day 434,000 proud farmers, livestock transporters, meat workers and butchers work together to provide families with natural, nutritious and healthy meat.

“Through droughts, floods and fires, our industry has always been there to supply the safest and highest quality meat to Australian consumers.

“These highly processed, unnatural plant-based products are increasingly seen as a health risk and are in no way similar to the red meat produced by Australian farmers.

“The brand and reputation of natural beef, lamb and goat has been built over generations and is now being denigrated by companies that are deliberately trying to use piggyback marketing to sell an inferior product.

“Infringing a trademarked brand to sell another product is unlawful in Australia and so should be the use of our industry’s collective owned meat category brands if a product is not from the flesh of an animal.

“The Australian red meat and livestock industry strongly welcome the announcement of a parliamentary inquiry into meat category branding.

“The status quo needs to be fixed as it is currently failing consumers and Australia’s 434,000 meat and livestock workers.

“A parliamentary inquiry will provide a voice to the hundreds of thousands of Australian families that collectively own their industry’s meat category brands.

“These voices need to be heard to address the blatant attempt to misappropriate our industry’s category branding for highly-manufactured plant-based proteins, which don’t support Australian livestock producers, processors or retailers.”

The inquiry will investigate the economic effects of non-animal protein marketing on Australia’s red meat industry, the legality of using livestock imagery on vegan products, and the health benefits of non-animal protein manufacturing processes.

“If you prefer tofu over T-bone, then you go for it but forget the ethics of eating animal products, this is about protecting a highly valuable industry and also providing a clear distinction between the real thing and the alternatives so consumers know exactly what they’re getting,” said Senator McDonald.

The Australian Meat Industry Council said it welcomed the announcement made at parliament last night about a Senate Inquiry into food labelling laws.

The Australian meat industry has made calls for action on meat category branding terms, such as “meat-free mince”, “sausage made with plants”, and “vegan bacon”.

“AMIC absolutely welcomes this inquiry, which is being championed by Senator McDonald, and thank her for driving this incredibly important process,” AMIC chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said.

“We are keen to ensure our interests are represented to ensure that labelling of manufactured plant proteins does not constitute a point of confusion for consumers, and that only genuine meat products are labelled as such,” he said.

“Further, we are pleased that the inquiry will review in detail the health implications of heavily processed plant proteins, as well as the long-term social and economic impairments caused by these types of products on businesses, livestock producers and individuals across regional, rural and remote Australia.

“We look forward to participating in the inquiry.”

Inquiry Terms of Reference

Definitions of meat and other animal products

Under Standing Order 25 (2)(a)(v), the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee will inquire into and report on the current state of meat category branding in Australia, with particular reference to:

  1. The management by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment of the legislative and regulatory framework underpinning the compulsory levy investment into meat category brands as declared through the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997, taking specific account of:
    1. The potential impairment of Australian meat category brand investment from the appropriation of product labelling by manufactured plant-based or synthetic protein brands, including:
      1. the use of manufactured plant-based or synthetic protein descriptors containing reference to animal flesh or products made predominately from animal flesh, including but not limited to “meat”, “beef”, “lamb”, and “goat”; and
      2. the use of livestock images on manufactured plant-based or synthetic protein packaging or marketing materials.
    2. The health implications of consuming heavily manufactured protein products which are currently being retailed with red meat descriptors or livestock images, including:
      1. consideration of unnatural additives used in the manufacturing process; and
      2. consideration of chemicals used in the production of these manufactured protein products.
    3. The immediate and long-term social and economic impacts of the appropriation of Australian meat category branding on businesses, livestock producers and individuals across regional, rural and remote Australia, including:
      1. the reliance upon imported ingredients;
      2. the support of regional employment; and
      3. the state and commonwealth taxation contribution from the Australian red meat and livestock sector.
    4. The implications for other Australian animal products impaired from the appropriation of product labelling by manufactured plant-based or synthetic proteins.
    5. any related matters.

The committee will present its report on or before the end of February 2022.

Submissions close on 30 July 2021.

Sources: Senator Susan McDonald, Red Meat Advisory Council, Australian Parliament

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Comments

  1. Michele Holly, 30/07/2021

    Of course consumers are being deceived! I am a consumer, and I purchased jerky from right in amongst the beef jerky only to spit it out when I got home because it tasted awful. Upon checking the label it said in small print ‘plant-based.’

  2. Peter Dunn, 16/06/2021

    This hijacking of livestock industry terminology by plant based industries has gone on too long, and hopefully the Senate Committee can put an end to it by ultimately being the catalyst for legislation which will eliminate it once and for all. However, 1.1.1 of the Committee Terms of Reference does not specify descriptors such as “sausage”, “pattie” and “burger”, possibly because these words have wider language application and are thus more difficult to contest in this context. Whatever the reason, these descriptors invoke almost as much perception as the words “beef” and “lamb” do. Not including them in the Terms of Reference means the plant based industries face an easier battle. Why give them an advantage before the first shot is fired?

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