ACCC 'out of touch' on vegan labels, say beef producers

Shan Goodwin
By Shan Goodwin
August 4 2021 - 2:30am
NEIGHBOURS: Not sure where the ACCC shops but numerous supermarkets display plant-based copycat products right alongside real beef, producers say.

BEEF producers have hit back hard at the failure of regulatory bodies to stand up to vegan food makers using words like meat and beef on their labels.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's claim such practices were unlikely to mislead consumers, and that most retailers separate beef and plant-based substitutes, has been described as extremely out of touch.

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"It's very disappointing how regulatory bodies have fallen in behind the talking points put out by alternative protein organisations," Agforce Cattle Board member and food manufacturer Mark Davie said.

"It's also disappointing the likes of Coles and Woolies can't provide any level of objective information about the amount of credit they issue because people have returned plant-based products they mistakenly thought were real beef."

Indeed, supermarket workers at both regional and city stores - who fear they'd lose their jobs if quoted - say it happens several times a week.

They also told Farmonline journalists plant-based products "rarely move until heavily discounted."

"When alternative protein makers talk about the success of their products, it's always in terms of investment capital raised, not products sold," Mr Davie said.

That speaks to the incentive to 'ride on the coat tails of real beef' and use confusing labelling, beef producers argue.

Beef producers urged to speak up on vegan labels

The ACCC, and Food Standards Australia New Zealand, have both made submissions to a current inquiry underway into labelling of alternative protein products which appear to come down firmly on the side of vegan food makers.

Terms like beef, meat, sausages and mince, and livestock images used on fake meat labels, are under the spotlight.

The inquiry was launched by Queensland Senator Susan McDonald, who argues it is up to makers of plant-based products to come up with their own distinct terms instead of trading off long-established names of animal proteins.

Beef advocacy groups are urging producers to have their say by lodging submissions, which have been extended until August 13.

Agforce Queensland has pulled together a template to assist.

"While we will be putting in a submission on behalf of members, independent submissions by producers are just as important in conveying grassroots knowledge," Agforce chief executive officer Michael Guerin.

Red Meat Advisory Council chair John Mckillop said the ACCC submission was disappointing as fair trading laws and food laws in Australia and New Zealand require that labels do not misinform consumers through false, misleading or deceptive representations.

"At a time of heightened health concerns for many Australians, consumers deserve robust truth in labelling regulations that assure product composition, safety and nutrition," he said.

"Duke University Medical Centre researchers have found manufactured plant-based products are 90 per cent metabolically different to grass-fed beef.

"Heavily processed manufactured plant-based proteins made primarily with imported ingredients are not nutritionally the same as naturally raised Australian red meat and our labelling laws must reflect this."

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Shan Goodwin

Shan Goodwin

National Agriculture Writer - Beef

Shan Goodwin steers ACM’s national coverage of the beef industry. Shan has worked as a journalist for 30 years, the majority of that with agricultural publications. She spent many years as The Land’s North Coast reporter and has visited beef properties and stations throughout the country and overseas. She treats all breeds equally.

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