The New Zealand government has decided not to join with Australia in mandating country of origin labelling for food, it has announced today, Monday.

"There is no link between food safety and country of origin labelling," said food safety minister Annette King. "Food safety is a pre-requisite for food sold in New Zealand irrespective of its source."

"New Zealand has for many years opposed mandatory country of origin
labelling internationally as we believe CoOL should be a commercial decision for businesses, rather than a matter for the government, and because we believe mandatory CoOL is potentially an unnecessary barrier to international trade," she said.

King said the decision will not impact on the government's commitment to supporting an expanded Buy New Zealand campaign.

"This government strongly supports voluntary Buy New Zealand schemes," she said. "If businesses see an advantage in using country of origin labelling voluntarily, then we welcome them doing so."

King said the proposed standard developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand for mandatory country of origin labelling, and agreed by Australian governments on 28 October, is much more onerous than the current Australian standard, and action is underway to review a number of other areas that could result in the standard being even more prescriptive in the future.

"New Zealanders have access to a wonderful range of foods and the absence of 'country of origin' labelling in the past has not diminished this variety nor our confidence in the food supply," she said.

"A lot of public health and safety information is already mandated for foods, including allergenetic ingredients for the top eight products that cause allergies, use-by dates, nutrition information, and the contact details of the manufacturer in New Zealand or Australia or the importer.

Even more information is often available by contacting the manufacturer should a consumer want to pursue any particular concerns."

The only mandatory country of origin labelling of food in New Zealand currently applies to wine, and this is under review.