Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA) does not support the proposed introduction of mandatory Country of Origin labelling for seafood served in NSW restaurants, claiming the move represents another layer of red tape for operators.

On Friday, deputy Premier Troy Grant used the NSW Nationals annual conference to announce a new labelling scheme which would require NSW restaurateurs to identify the country of origin of the seafood it serves.

According to The Daily Telegraph, a proposal is due to go before cabinet by the end of the year.

Grant said the new labelling scheme would help diners to be able to choose local seafood when eating out, bolstering the state’s seafood industry.

“Seafood caught in NSW is among the highest quality and most sustainably caught in the world — and we want to make sure that all customers have the knowledge to choose our top quality NSW products over cheaper, imported fish,” he said.

If implemented, the changes – similar to those introduced in the Northern Territory – will be another financial and administrative burden for restaurant operators, said R&CA’s CEO, John Hart.

“At a time when government should be making it easier for small business to do business, this proposal could serve to increase administrative red tape.

“The announcement does not recognise the inconsistencies in the supply chain that often require businesses to source seafood from a range of suppliers, including those from overseas.


“Whilst restaurant businesses prefer to source Australian product, they must have the flexibility to promote Australian seafood where possible but recognise that it is not always available,” Hart said.

The labelling regulations would require restaurants to re-print menus whenever a dish or a seafood’s origin changes.

In 2015, R&CA together with the Accommodation Association of Australia (AAoA), the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) and the Seafood Importers Association of Australasia (SIAA) produced a position paper titled Extending Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling to Seafood: A perspective from the foodservice sector. The paper highlighted the key considerations for the introduction of mandatory country of origin labelling to the foodservice sector, including the potential cost and administrative burden the regulation would place on businesses.

The report included comments from chef John Lanzafame, who at the time was executive chef at the Criniti’s group of restaurants. He said the proposed labelling changes would have a massive impact on profitability.

“What you are asking us to do is reprint our menus daily. Our last menu re-print was $50,000 for all sites. Imagine the costs if we had to do it daily,” he said.

“To implement this idea will be commercial suicide for restaurants. The more seafood they sell, the harder it will be. It’s hard to believe this crazy idea comes from the seafood industry itself.”

According to R&CA, an initial investigation revealed menu re-prints could cost a business up to $150,000 a year.

“Mandatory country of origin labelling limits the flexibility of operators to source produce based on price, seasonality, quality, menu design, and supplier relationships,” Hart said.


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