Consumers ‘misled’ by organic labelling, industry calls for change

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Adam PoulsenThe West Australian
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Cabbage.
Camera IconCabbage. Credit: Pakin Songmor

Australia’s peak organic produce body has called for mandatory certification marks on all organic products in a bid to build consumer trust.

It comes after new research by Australian Organic Limited revealed 31 per cent of shoppers believed they had been misled by organic labelling.

AOL chief executive Niki Ford said stamping easily recognisable logos on organic packaging would increase consumer confidence.

“Our research highlights 59 per cent of buyers are looking for certification logos when reading a product’s labelling,” Ms Ford said.

Australian Organic Limited chief executive Niki Ford.
Camera IconAustralian Organic Limited chief executive Niki Ford. Credit: Australian Organic Limited

“Ensuring all organic products are certified and labelled with a mandatory logo will remove any confusion and help clearly signpost the organic products in the marketplace.

“Customers will be able to see these logos and instantly have peace of mind their purchase is an authentic, and certified, organic product.”

Ms Ford — who sits on the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s Organics Industry Advisory Group — said the organic industry contributed more than $2 billion to the Australian economy, with widespread predictions of growth for domestic and international markets.

According to AOL’s research, the findings of which were contained in the Australian Organic Market Report 2021, more than 60 per cent of Australian consumers recognised the Australian Organic “bud” logo.

Ms Ford said this indicated the logo provided the trust consumers were looking for, adding that now was the time for the industry to unite behind cohesive labelling to unlock new markets.

“I believe common sense will prevail and a mandatory standard for use of the word ‘organic’ will be established as, although our industry is thriving, this is a step that is well overdue,” she said.

“Australia is one of the only developed nations without a mandatory national standard.

“Our prosperous industry is competing on a world stage, so it’s imperative we have one symbol, the bud, to resonate with consumers.”

The move has been backed by Queensland horticulture producer the McMahon Bros Orchards, who have used the label on their organic fruit for more than 20 years.

Paul McMahon, whose family’s 323ha enterprise is located about 250km south west of Brisbane at Stanthorpe, said the logo assured consumers they were buying the real deal.

“I think it’s the best way for our industry to communicate with our consumers that our products are accredited to the highest standard,” he said.

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