Food activists have infiltrated Australian supermarkets in a bid to bring greater awareness to the products which are manufactured overseas and shine a light on the local offerings.
The renegades are turning some products around to show shoppers what they’re made of and where they are made.
The push began with a hunt for an Australian-made smoked oyster, which #flipitandreverseit instigator Kristy McIlvenna couldn’t find among the four brands stocked at her local supermarket.
“It just really got to me,” she told 3AW.
She began to turn products around on shelves where she couldn’t find an Australian-made option. Then she began posting the results on social media.
Her first post from March 31 has been shared more than 25,500 times, and other people in Darwin, Perth and elsewhere in Australia have begun to follow suit.
“It’s gathering momentum Kristy … better be prepared for an avalanche of responses. I’ve never thought of turning the can until today. Yay !!” Facebook supporter Margaret Nisbett said.
Behind the move, which McIlvenna admits causes some extra work for supermarket staff, is concern over food safety, local manufacturing and food miles.
“We should be demanding that there’s an Australian option in stores,” she said.
#Flipitandreverseit has its critics, some have pointed out that McIlvenna’s project makes things difficult for people with vision impairments, or that it misses its mark by impacting supermarket shelve stackers rather than others.
She admitted on 3AW that she hadn’t written to Coles or Woolworths to explain her actions because “it’s sort of like sending a letter to Santa”.
But Coles has rebutted McIlvenna’s primary claim, saying an Australian supplier of smoked oysters wasn’t available.
“Coles has an Australian First Policy which means we always seek to buy Australian produce in the first instance, when it is available in sufficient quantities and appropriate quality and at a fair and reasonable price,” Coles spokesman Blair Speedy said.
And they don’t stock Australian smoked oysters because there are no Australian suppliers, Mr Speedy said.
Ms McIlvenna disputed Coles’ statement: “Guess what – IGA stock Aussie smoked oysters, thank you IGA!! X,” she said on Facebook.
#flipitandreverseit “demonstrates” the importance of stronger labeling laws, which are being discussed at the Federal Government level, says AusVeg, the industry body for vegetable and potato growers.
A submission to cabinet was due in March to start a review of food labeling after Australians contracted hepatitis A from frozen berries imported from China.
“AUSVEG would like to see … Country of Origin statements moved to the front of packaging and increased in size, with the countries of origin of the ‘characterising ingredients’ detailed, as well as the banning of confusing terms such as “made from local and imported ingredients,” a spokesman said.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council, representing Australian food manufacturers, said it was working with the government as it seeks to implement changes to food labelling laws.