Before you buy a product you are entitled to a minimum amount of information. This can mean different things depending on the type of product:
- care and/or cleaning instructions for clothing
- ingredients or components used to make a particular product
- information about where a product was made.
Under the Australian Consumer Law, information standards regulate the type and amount of information provided to consumers about the goods they may be buying.
Care labelling outlines how a user should care for a particular item of clothing or textile product. The label provides information on what to do and what not to do when cleaning or caring for the product.
Importance of care labelling
Care labelling is required to provide consumers with enough information to:
- know how to care for clothing and textile products
- have prior knowledge of costs, such as dry cleaning, in the ongoing care of clothing and textile products
- understand how to clean clothing and textile products properly (eg cold hand wash only)
- maximise the useful life of clothing and textile products
- avoid damage such as dyes running (eg wash separately).
For further information about care labelling for clothing and textiles, check out the Product Safety Australia website.
The Food Standards Code includes general labelling and information requirements about all foods and sets out which requirements apply in different situations:
- suppliers must label food products with accurate weights and measures information
- ingredients must be listed in descending order (by ingoing weight)
- labels must be legible, prominent, distinct from the background, and in English
- food must be labelled with an accurate name or description that indicates the true nature of the food
- most packaged foods have to carry labels which show the percentage of the key or characterising ingredient in the food – this allows you to compare similar products
- all food must be labelled with the contact details of the food supplier
- all packaged (and some unpackaged) food sold in Australia must be accompanied by information stating where the food comes from (ie the country of origin).
For further information, Food Standards Australia/New Zealand has produced several user guides on general labelling requirements in the Code.
Country of origin labelling
A business must not make false or misleading representations about the country of origin of goods. Representations about country of origin include:
- 'made in' a specified country
- 'produce of', 'product of' or 'produced in' a country
- use of a prescribed logo
- claims that goods, or ingredients or components, were 'grown in' a specified country.
For a business to claim goods are 'made in' a particular country, it must meet the following requirements:
- the goods must be substantially transformed in that country - this means the product undergoes a fundamental change in the country represented (the changes can be to the product's appearance, operation or purpose)
- 50% or more of the total cost of producing or manufacturing the goods must be incurred in that country.
For a business to claim goods are 'produced in', 'produce of' or 'product of' a particular country, it must meet the following requirements:
- all or virtually all of the production or manufacturing processes must happen in that country
- all of the significant ingredients or components must come from that country.
If a business labels a product with a prescribed logo (for example, the 'Made in Australia' brand), the goods must both:
- pass the substantial transformation test (as outlined above)
- meet the prescribed percentage of production or manufacturing costs that apply for that logo.
A business can lawfully claim goods are 'grown in' a particular country when it meets the following requirements:
- at least 50% of the total weight comprises ingredients or components grown and processed in that country
- virtually all production or manufacturing processes happened in that country
- each significant ingredient or significant component was grown and processed only in that country. An ingredient or component does not have to be a certain percentage to be 'significant'.
The country of origin may also be represented by a certification trademark, such as the 'Australian Made, Australian Grown' (AMAG) logo.
The AMAG logo and other certification trademarks may only be used by businesses licensed by the owner of the mark.
Some foods include claims on their labels such as 'Proudly Australian owned' or '100% Australian owned'. These statements are about the ownership of the company - they don't tell you where the product was made or where its ingredients came from.
Country of origin - Australian Competition and Consumer Commission