The Guardian 7 September, 2005

Vegetable labelling campaign

Tasmanian food workers are calling on the federal government to show leadership over food labelling guidelines in an effort to save hundreds of jobs.

The workers have been joined by other industry stakeholders, including farmers, local companies and the Tasmanian government on a Vegetable Taskforce to ensure that food products are labelled accurately.

Over 400 jobs at the McCain’s plant in Smithton are under threat because of a flood of imported food products. Last month food workers joined rallies in northern Tasmania after fast food giant McDonalds announced that it would no longer source the potatoes for it’s french fries from Tasmania.

"At the end of the day it’s regional jobs and regional communities that are on the line here", says Anne Urquhart, Tasmanian Secretary of the Australian Manu­facturing Workers’ Union. "We want clear and unambiguous food labelling that clearly identifies the contents of a packaged product and where it is from."

Ms Urquhart praised the Tasmanian government’s work in establishing the Vegetable Taskforce and said that it was a measure of how seriously this issue was being taken that the Minister was personally involved in the deliberations of the taskforce.

The taskforce has also heard from stakeholders of how imported food products are having a negative effect on other jobs and businesses in the food industry.

"The Tasmanian government is on side in a big way", says Ms Urquhart. "We need the federal government to show some leadership here and ensure there is accurate country-of-origin labelling."

Product labelling is administered by a body known as the Foods Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).

Food workers fear that ambiguous or vague food labelling means consumers may believe they are buying Australian produce when in fact it is imported.

They want the federal government to ensure FSANZ moves to implement accurate food labelling.

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