The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council has rejected a proposed extension of the Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) standard, following review of a feasibility study carried out by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) into the proposal.

The CoOL standard will come into full force for unpackaged fruit, vegetables, nuts and seafood for Australia-only products on 8 June 2006, for some unpackaged pork products on 8 December 2006, and for packaged goods on 8 December 2007. The FSANZ had been asked by the government to undertake an evaluation of a possible extension of CoOL to declaring the origin (or place where grown) of the principal whole food components of products containing two or less fruit and/or vegetables. 

However, having considered the report from FSANZ, the Ministerial Council found that “the cost of the proposed extension to CoOL would exceed the benefits from its implementation and would not be in the overall interest of Australia”. 

The Council added that “it was found that it would harm the horticultural industry, the horticultural processing industry and exports, and the domestic industry would also be harmed in favour of imports of finished products”.

At the same meeting, the Ministerial Council also considered advice from FSANZ regarding the timeframes for developing standards for mandatory fortification of food with folic acid and with iodine and agreed to defer a final decision on this matter until its next meeting in October 2006.

But the council did approve a revised policy guideline for Primary Production Standards which provides overarching Ministerial guidance for the development of all national primary production and processing standards for food products in Australia. 
The council said in a statement that the guideline would ensure that the development of standards for primary production and processing of food products will be consistent across Australia.  States and territories will recognise the national standards in their food regulatory legislation, the council said. 

The Ministerial Council has also reappointed the Hon. Rob Knowles as chairman of Food Standards Australia New Zealand for another two-year term.