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Australia Thinks Its Citizens Need to Know How Australian Their Food Is

Australia's new $37 million "Country of Origin Labelling" program doesn’t mandate that food producers actually label the country of origin—unless that country is Australia.
Photo via industry.gov.au.

Who wants to lug around a cumbersome passport through countless airport terminals when you could just as easily use some cleverly packaged ground chuck instead? Everyone knows the alternate cut of Casablanca involved Bogie, Victor Laszlo, and a very meaty "letter of transit."

So it should come as a shock to no one that Australia has spent $37 million on a food-labeling system that has the Twitterverse up in arms. They are calling it a total waste of time and money.

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"Country of Origin Labeling" or "COOL" is the new program that was announced this week Down Under. On Tuesday, none other than Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, and Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane introduced the new COOL labels, which include a gold kangaroo and a percentage bar. (Sadly, they didn't have enough marketing foresight to have the kangaroo smoking a Kool brand cigarette. You can thank me later, Australia.)

The thing is this, though: the new program doesn't mandate that food producers actually label the country of origin—unless that country is Australia.

This has people upset. Sure, if the food is grown locally, the label will say "Grown in Australia." Otherwise, it will only tell buyers roughly what percentage of the product comes from Australian ingredients. It might say, for example: "Made In Australia from more than 50% Australian Ingredients."

So, if the product is grown in New Zealand, the new "Country of Origin Labeling" will not tell the buyer so. And if a product is 75 percent made outside of Australia, the label will not tell the buyer where that 75 percent comes from.

Companies will be encouraged, but not required, to give more information on the actual country of origin of the product, Mashable reports. The new program will be in place by mid-2016.

"This is something that Australians have wanted for a long time," Prime Minister Abbott said.

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Evidently, the memo didn't get to the Australians who are mouthing off on Twitter. It's also pretty much an indelible truth that naming something "COOL" is going to make it lame as shit in the eyes of the public.

Richard Davies, whose Twitter handle is @richinsidney, describes himself as "centrist (but a bit social progressive)." He tweeted: "What a crock! Why is there no Country of Origin shown on ‪#CountryOfOrigin labels? A HUGE WASTE."

Not letting it go, he later posted, "How STUPID is our govt to produce ‪#CountryOfOrigin labels WITHOUT country of origin?"

User @pandymonium01 wrote, "How is this '#CountryofOrigin' labelling [sic] when the country that isn't Australia ISN'T NAMED?!?"

Perhaps "Country of Origin Labeling" wasn't the best name for the program. Maybe something like "Here's How Australian Your Food Is" would have been more accurate. The more homegrown, the more likelihood there is that the package will start sprouting a mullet and a Stussy tee.

But if you want to buy Australian products—or need to know just how Australian the food you are eating is—you will be one step closer after the new program is in place. Time to listen to some Men at Work and make yourself some celebratory fairy bread. Just don't ask where it's from.