Australians might have to bear the cost of knowing more about the origin of the imported foods they buy.

“WE are going to have to break eggs to make an omelette,” Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ordered Mr Macfarlane and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to prepare an urgent cabinet submission on country-of-origin food labelling laws.

The move follows an outbreak of hepatitis A linked to imported frozen berries and consumer concern about the lack of information on packaging

.In an apparent about-face, Mr Abbott now appears to favour tighter regulation of labelling laws having earlier warned about additional costs and red tape for business.

“The people of Australia want better country-of-origin labelling and this government is determined to deliver it to them,” he said.

Mr Macfarlane warned any changes would come at a cost. “But those changes have to be made if consumers are to have the information they need on their food products,” he said.The government is looking at a simple graphic that clearly indicated the percentage of Australian and imported content of packaged food.Mr Joyce said even his wife had been demanding changes to labelling.

“They want to know what’s in the packet,” he said.Mr Abbott said any changes would be implemented in the “most business-friendly” way that would be offset by reductions in red tape elsewhere.

“Obviously, we do need regulation, but it’s got to be efficient and effective regulation,” he said.

Cabinet is expected to consider the Macfarlane-Joyce submission in March.Local food growers have welcomed the prospect of pie chart-style labelling for imported products.

“There are conditions under which food is prepared in a number of these countries that just aren’t acceptable to Australian standards,” AUSVEG chief executive Richard Mulcahy said.

“The reality is, in a lot of the Third World countries they have poor standards of hygiene, there’s issues with their water supply.”

AUSVEG chief executive Richard Mulcahy says pie chart-style labelling on products would be ideal to clearly inform people where their food had come from.

“I share the concern that there are conditions under which food is prepared in a number of these countries that just aren’t acceptable to Australian standards,” he told Fairfax radio.

“The reality is, in a lot of the third world countries they have poor standards of hygiene, there’s issues with their water supply.”

Extracted in full from The Australian.