Interested in where that apple came from? – new regulations require businesses to provide Country of Origin Information on Fresh Food Items

Julika Wahlmann-SmithJulika Wahlmann-Smith, Senior Associate, and Brooke Taylor, Law Graduate at Hesketh Henry discuss the new regulations designed to provide consumers with more information when buying food. Brooke Taylor


Your trip to the supermarket has just become more informative with the commencement of the Consumer Information Standards (Origin of Food) Regulations 2021.  The regulations mean that businesses are now required to provide information regarding the country of origin for fresh and thawed foods. The regulations came into effect on 12 February 2022 for fresh and thawed foods and from 12 May 2023, will be enforced for frozen foods. The regulations are intended to give consumers more information as to where their food is being grown, raised, caught, or harvested.

The general requirement is that origin information must be disclosed for regulated food items that are supplied, offered, or advertised for supply. So, what exactly is a regulated food item and what are the requirements for disclosing origin information?

What is a regulated food item?

 Origin information must be disclosed on all regulated food items being sold at retail. Fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, seafood, or meat, of one type are regulated food items. Where a food product has more than one type, the regulations do not require disclosure of the origin information. For example, mixed containers of fresh fruit which are sold at a supermarket, will not need to disclose the origin information for each type of fruit.

The regulations currently capture food that is fresh or thawed and, from 12 May 2023, frozen. Food is only considered thawed or frozen if it is no more than minimally processed and would otherwise be considered fresh. Processes such as refrigeration and blanching prior to freezing are not considered to affect the food’s “fresh” properties.

The requirements apply to the retail sale of food, such as the sale of food at supermarkets. The requirements do not apply where the food is being consumed immediately at places such as a restaurant.

The regulations deal with cured pork separately. Cured pork that is sold at retail and not for immediate consumption, will be considered a regulated food item, whether it is fresh, one type, minimally processed, or not.

Information to be disclosed

Origin information refers to the information of the country or countries where the food was grown, raised, caught, or harvested. In the case of seafood, the information of the country whose national fisheries jurisdiction the seafood is caught or harvested in, will need to be disclosed. Where seafood was caught or harvested in the high seas, outside a country’s jurisdiction, the ocean the seafood was caught or harvested in must be disclosed.

The information needs to be in clear and legible text, in English and/or Te Reo Māori. The text needs to clearly tell the consumer how the regulated food item is related to the origin information. For example, the sticker on the apple needs to say “grown in Australia” as opposed to just saying Australia on it. Although, we note that the regulations do not provide any specific wording requirements.

There also needs to be a connection between the item and the origin information, for the customer to easily identify the information. The information could be placed on the product packaging or label, or on a sign next to the item. If the regulated product is being offered for sale online, then the origin information must also be included on the relevant webpage. If the place of origin changes enough making it unreasonable to change the disclosed information, it is possible to list the countries or oceans where the items come from and include a statement that not all countries or oceans may be relevant to the particular item.

There are some other instances where more information may be required. For example, if the regulated food item was advertised or offered where the food is reasonably likely to change origin, that information needs to be included when advertising or offering the product.

Failure to meet these requirements will breach the Fair-Trading Act 1986 and the Commerce Commission will be able to issue infringement notices accordingly.

These new regulations are designed to provide consumers with more information when buying food. They are also another consideration for businesses as part of their compliance requirements. The actual impact of the location of origin of food on a buyer’s preferences, in particular with the increased emphasis on food miles, will be something to watch.

Julika Wahlmann-Smith has advised on a wide range of corporate and commercial law issues, including reviewing and advising on commercial contracts, terms of trade and distribution agreements, mergers and acquisitions, foreign investment, advertising campaigns, consumer law, and intellectual property rights. Connect with Julika via LinkedIn.

Brooke Taylor graduated from the University of Auckland with a BSc/LLB(Hons) degree in 2022. She is a member of the Business Advice team at Hesketh Henry and assists with corporate and commercial matters. Connect with Brooke via LinkedIn.