HIGH STANDARD: Sherrill Stivano, from Roma was named Queensland's RIRDC woman of the year.
HIGH STANDARD: Sherrill Stivano, from Roma was named Queensland's RIRDC woman of the year. Pamela Frost

Food labelling ‘must highlight excellence’

THE winner of Queensland's 2015 Rural Women's Award Sherrill Stivano said Australian farmers should be driving the country-of-origin labelling discussion for consumers.

Mrs Stivano, a Roma feedlot owner, said the push would help ensure full household confidence in food.

The mother-of-three's project proposal, based on the United Kingdom's Red Tractor program, will address food labelling issues in Australia.

Mrs Stivano said her idea was put forward long before the recent hepatitis A contamination in frozen imported berries.

"If we are investing our time and skills to identify our Australian food, we need to highlight the excellent production methods underpinning our agricultural industries," she said.

"We must ensure consumers can easily identify Australian products, knowing they are produced with environmental stewardship and sustainability, excellent animal welfare practices and food safety through traceability and regulation."

Mrs Stivano said acknowledgement of production and quality accountability must return to the farmer, not the supermarkets, processors or RSPCA.

She said while Australia's agricultural industries have excellent assurance programs in place, some could be enhanced to include more specific concerns.

"This specific label must also complement those farmers who have taken the time to develop their own brands," Mrs Stivano said.

"The new label should be the first thing the consumer looks for, followed by the preferred individual brand.

"This is an opportunity to make a positive and proactive change, firstly for the farmer and then for the consumer, at both domestic and international levels.

"This should not be rushed through to be a vote-winner or election catch-cry.

"It must be a carefully considered and consultative approach with industry bodies, farmers and consumer groups."

Proposed Country of Origin Labels - how it could work, by Sherrill Stivano :

Any Country of Origin Label must have these three key components at its
core:

  • Environment
  • Animal welfare
  • Food safety

The CoOL must showcase the excellent environmental care and sustainability; animal welfare practices and food safety standards and regulations that already exist in our food production chain, more particularly on the farm before the commodities even leave the farm gate.

Costs and impositions must not be heavy. Use existing framework already in place from industry assurance programs through to levies and Australian Made.

Mrs Stivano said this proposed labelling should be seen as an opportunity for farmers to showcase their existing production methods under one banner that the Australian consumer can easily identify.

"It is imperative that under any country of origin labelling discussions, the focus must not solely be on the consumer at the end of the food chain, but at the start of the food chain, with our farmers," she said.


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