Friday, August 6, 2010

NSW BEEF LABELLING LEGISLATION TO COMMENCE 31 AUGUST 2010

The NSW Minister for Primary Industries has advised that the long-awaited Torbay “Truth in Labelling” legislation (the Food Amendment (Beef Labelling) Act 2009 (NSW)) will come into effect on 31 August 2010.

The Minister proposes to adopt the latest edition of the AUS-MEAT Domestic Retail Beef Register as the reference document for that legislation.

The AUS-MEAT Domestic Retail Beef Register provides retailers with alternative descriptors to the current trade AUS-MEAT language for retailers.

Consequently, after August 31, retailers in NSW will be required to describe beef from animals:

  • up to 18 months who have yet to cut any teeth as “Yearling” or simply “Beef”;
  • with 2 teeth as “Young” or “Beef”;
  • with 4 teeth as “Intermediate” or “Beef”;
  • with 6 teeth as “Mature” or “Beef”;
  • with 8 teeth (the better cow beef) as “Economy”;
  • with 8 teeth (the worst cow beef) as “Manufacturing suitable for mince only”.

There are many good provisions in the Food Amendment (Beef Labelling) Act 2009.

Unfortunately, the decision to enable NSW retailers to label old cow beef from mature animals with 8 teeth “Economy” rather than “Budget” and beef from immature 6 teeth animals as “Mature” is not one of them.

MLA research shows that consumers think that beef labelled “Economy” would represent value and would be better to eat than beef labelled “Budget” and that beef labelled “Mature” would be chewy and probably came from an old cow.

The two terms should have been reversed, with the old cow beef being labelled “Mature”.

We understand that Richard Torbay requested Minister Whan to ask the industry to amend the AUS-MEAT Domestic Retail Beef Register to require the best of the cow beef from 8 tooth animals to be labelled “Mature” and the beef from younger 6 tooth animals to be labelled “Economy”.

Minister Whan was, however, unable to obtain industry’s agreement to this request, and those that profit from the selling of old cow beef to unsuspecting consumers carried the day.

The balance of the provisions are, however, to be applauded.

For over twenty (20) years, export abattoirs have been required to label the beef that leaves their abattoir in accord with AUS-MEAT language.

Australian retailers, however, have had no such requirement. Consequently, beef from six (6) tooth animals described by the abattoir as PR is regularly sold by retailers as “Yearling”.

Provided that proper audit and enforcement provisions are put in place, this legislation will bring these practices to an end.

Currently, export abattoirs are required by the AUS-MEAT language to label the worst of the cow beef “Manufacturing”, but the retailers who are signatories to the voluntary Budget Beef Retail Agreement have no such requirement. Consequently, beef delivered to the back of the store in boxes marked “Manufacturing” is sold by those retailers as “Budget” beef.

Once the Food Amendment (Beef Labelling) Act 2009 is proclaimed, retailers will be required to label Manufacturing beef “Manufacturing – Suitable for Mince Only”.

The latest edition of the Domestic Retail Beef Register will also bring to an end the misleading retail practice of advertising beef as “Export A”, “Export Quality”, etc.

Richard Torbay, the State Member for New England and Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly, is to be congratulated for his vision and persistence in bringing the long overdue reforms to NSW Beef Truth and Labelling to fruition.

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