Plants not meat- report

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Plant grown or from livestock? A new report suggests better labelling. Photo by Megan Fisher

Plant-based food manufacturers may have to change the way they label products if recommendations from a new report are taken on by the Federal Government.

A Senate inquiry into definitions of meat and other animal products — initiated by the National Party — recommends the government implement mandatory food-labelling requirements.

It also recommends a far-reaching review of Australia’s food standards regulator.

Nationals Senator Susan McDonald said more regulation was needed as consumers were confused by plant products featuring names like “chicken”, “beef” or “prawns”.

She said regulation would protect the intellectual property of Australia’s multi-billion-dollar meat, dairy and seafood industries, especially with lab-grown meat set to enter markets in coming years.

“No-one likes to see more regulation, but it is the committee’s view that labelling does need to clearly differentiate between plant proteins and products long associated with coming from animals,” Senator McDonald said.

Yet in a submission to the committee, Woolworths said their customer research data showed 91 per cent of Australians had never mistakenly purchased a plant- based product thinking it was the meat-based counterpart.

“In our experience, grocery shoppers are savvy and discerning in the products they choose to buy,” Woolworths said.

The consumer watchdog also told the committee it had not received reports that the way plant-based substitute products were labelled was causing problems for shoppers.

The Australian Greens oppose seven of the nine recommendations of an inquiry they call a waste of taxpayers’ money and public service time.

“This inquiry takes place against the backdrop of the most severe and significant challenges to the meat and wider agriculture industry arising from climate change,” Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson said in the dissenting report.

“The hill the Nationals are pushing the traditional meat industry to die on is not this existential threat to the industry, but instead a peripheral and barely registrable issue of labelling.

“The Nationals and Greens agree the government needs to provide more support for the expansion of the plant-protein industry and bolster its capacity to use Australian grown produce.”

“All we’re suggesting is that — like margarine makers did by choosing a name that didn’t contain butter — plant protein marketers come up with ways to promote their products without trading on animal names and imagery,” Senator McDonald said.