Fake meat labels fool 6 in 10 Australian buyers, agriculture industry says
Six in ten Australians are said to be ‘tricked’ by a range of plant-based meat substitutes, according to the country’s largest livestock, poultry and fishing industry groups.
But Australia’s consumer watchdog has already dismissed claims of supermarket subterfuge, saying those concerns are not fleshed out by real-world experiences.
Industry groups including the Red Meat Advisory Council, the Australian Chicken Meat Federation and Seafood Industry Australia on Friday released a joint statement, saying local consumers are being fooled by the labeling of vegetarian meat substitutes and vegans.
The groups pointed to new research from Pollinate, which found that 61% of Australian consumers falsely identified the contents of at least one of the five herbal products presented to them.
Each of the five products was misidentified 25% of the time on average, according to research.
Some 56% of survey participants went on to say that packages of plant-based products should not use animal imagery or terms like “beef” and “meat.”
“Australians are being misled by plant-based protein packaging, and we believe clearer labeling standards need to be introduced to address this issue,” a spokesperson for the group said.
The statement is supported by a Senate inquiry into meatless food labeling practices, led by the Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport.
The high-profile investigation promises to be a litmus test for Australia’s rapidly growing alternative protein industry, and could have an impact on how these products are branded on shelves across the country.
Complainants “fully aware” of what they were buying: ACCC
Yet not all stakeholders share the point of view of the livestock sector.
In its submission to the investigation, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) indicates that only 11 of the 564,000 messages it received between January 2020 and June 2021 concerned confusing packaging or advertising for the meat.
And of those complaints, the majority came from consumers and stakeholders in the meat and dairy industry, who “were fully aware of what the affected product was made of when they saw it for sale.”
“The ACCC has not received any information demonstrating that the labeling of herbal substitutes is a problem detrimental to consumers,” the organization said.
These few complaints are unlikely to be taken to court under current legislation, the ACCC added.
“In each case, we considered that a court would consider the general impression conveyed by the labeling of these products as unlikely to mislead an ordinary consumer.”
Ginger beer and soy sausage pairings
Beyond mere claims of consumer confusion, the survey’s terms of reference reflect growing friction between Australia’s meat industries and the growing alternative protein sector, which hopes to become an accepted part of the national diet.
The survey investigates the specific impact of plant-based products using terms such as ‘meat’, ‘beef’ or ‘sausage’, which industry groups believe could dilute the ‘brand’ of Australian meat on domestic and foreign markets.
In its own inquiry request, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the independent authority overseeing the Food Standards Code in the two countries, said there are certain “compositional requirements” for products made from it. meat such as “sausage”, “meat pie” and “salted meat”.
These rules apply “unless the context makes it clear that it is not the intention,” the organization said.
Using the example of ginger beer, which does not need to comply with the Code requirements for “regular” beer given its “ginger” context, FZANZ stated that “the compositional requirements here- above do not apply to analogous meat products labeled and sold as “free meat and sausage”, “vegetarian sausage” or “soy sausage”.
“It is clear that such a product is not a sausage containing meat of animal origin.”
More than money for lunch
The survey findings promise to have major ramifications for the traditional and alternative meat industries.
In its investigation submission, Livestock SA said it was “concerned about the immediate and long-term social and economic impacts” of the alternative meat brand, and how its production could have a “negative impact. potential for regional agricultural employment “.
Whether these concerns are valid or not, the meat substitutes industry is definitely making its way into the market.
v2food, backed by Hungry founder Jack Jack Cowin and CSIRO, revealed Thursday that it has completed a $ 72 million funding round, bringing its value to $ 500 million.
For the traditional meat industry, these figures are food for thought.
Submissions to the Senate inquiry will close on August 13, with the committee scheduled to report no later than February 2022.