There's been discussion in the Samford Food group about how to tell the country of origin from barcodes. Some believed you could do this using the first three digits in the barcode. Turns out this isn't as accurate as we thought (see info below). Some of the asian countries have no food regulations eg China, Taiwan, Vietnam.
Below are some excerpts:
Dear Food Group,
Sorry but the barcode number is not a true indication of the country of
The owner of the barcode can be any business or individual, the country codes only relate the issuing company - for Australia that is
Other companies can buy barcodes from GS1 and then resell barcodes as a product in their own right.
Each country sells barcodes with their country prefix, so a manufacturer can buy barcodes for each country they intend to sell their product. You could by an imported product with an Australian barcode you could also buy a locally made product with a foreign prefix barcode
An Australian company can put their Australian prefix barcode 93 on any of their products regardless of location of manufacture - most home branded Australian products will have an Australian 93 barcode regardless of the country where it is sourced from.
There is no real way to identify the country of origin from the
barcode; unfortunately the simple answer is that there is no real way to identify the country of origin unless the producer decides to tell you
Under the Trade Practices Act a food product can legally be described as 'Australian made' if it has been substantially transformed in Australia and at least 50% of the production costs have been incurred in Australia.
The 'Australian made' claim can still be made when the product contains mainly imported ingredients which have simply been mixed or blended, seasoned, cured or homogenised here in Australia.
The ACCC's country of origin guidelines allow a food product to carry a
claim like 'Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients' if it
doesn't meet the full criteria. So if the 50% hurdle rate isn't achieved
they can still use the statement 'Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients' and not be in breach of the law.
There are many submissions and enquiries into this issue but the problem still remains:
1 food labelling is a mix of legislation and administered by many government departments who can not agree on what is in the best interests of the consumer and manufacturers
2 we have a duopoly in the grocery industry - two major retailers control too much of the market and they aren't about to support any changes to the legislation
3 ambiguous labelling allows manufacturers to change source of supply without having to change product labels
So it's a good thing we have a food group, at least we know where this
portion of our diet comes from