Trade descriptions

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Is there a documented system in place for ensuring export labels and other trade descriptions that appear on the packaging are accurate, current and in accordance with minimum export requirements?

The program must describe the minimum contents that make up an export trade description that must include:

  • A description of the milk and milk products.
  • Where milk and milk products contain more than one ingredient, a list of ingredients in accordance with the requirements specified in Standard 1.2.4 of the Food Standards Code.
  • The net contents (the quantity of milk and milk products in a container).
  • The country of origin.
  • The registration number of the establishment at which the milk and milk products are last prepared (other than handled, loaded or stored).
  • The name and address of the exporter, occupier or consignee.
  • The identify of the lot for the milk and milk products.
  • The directions for the use or storage if the milk and milk products are of a nature as to warrant such directions for reasons of food safety.

The program must include:

  • Criteria to meet if foreign languages are used.
  • Specific importing country requirements (e.g. use by or best before date format).
  • Compositional claims must be verified.
  • Where the packaging is in multiple containers, the trade description requirements may vary to the primary container.  These must be defined if different and must meet export legislation.

For the relevant legislative references in the Export Control (Milk and Milk Products) Rules 2021, please refer to the department’s, Approved Arrangement Checklist.

The requirement around meeting trade description includes:

A trade description includes writing (in any language), pictures or markings that indicate what the package contains, how to handle it and any other information about the product. It can be adhered or printed directly on the product’s primary or secondary packaging or secured to the product (e.g. tags). It is important that your trade description accurately reflects the product.

The Export Permit and Health Certificate should be consistent with each other.  Communication may need to occur between processor, exporter, freight forwarder and importer, to ensure these documents retain their eligibility.

Trade descriptions must be:

  • Accurate and not confusing or misleading
  • Securely attached
  • Legible
  • Prominent/not obscured, and
  • Tamper evident as much as possible/practical

A trade description is false if it contains incorrect information or is likely to mislead the customer.  You must not apply a false trade description and you must not deface or remove information from a trade description that would make it false or misleading. Any product with a false trade description is not eligible for export.

Inner and Outer packaging

Trade descriptions must be applied to dairy product packaging before export.

The trade description must be applied at the time the goods are packed in their immediate container (e.g., when milk goes into carton, powder goes into bag).

If you decide to have both inner and outer packaging, the information presented must be consistent in all packaging formats and not be conflicting.

Consideration should be given to packaging, storage and transport conditions when ensuring legible and secure information is maintained on the packaging. Moisture, humidity, temperature and other factors which can deface the presented information, must be considered when printing information on outer packaging. For example, cardboard packaging may need to be waterproofed to withstand moisture.  Storage conditions and the possibility of rough handling may mean that labels and/or tags need to be made extra secure (e.g. adhesive use-by date stickers may easily peel off from cardboard when stored in freezers). 

Required details for the trade description are:

    1. a description of the milk product
    2. the net weight/volume
    3. the country of origin (refer to ACCC website, section on country of origin requirements)
    4. the establishment registration number where goods were last prepared (not just stored or handled) and packed into the immediate container, ensuring the registration number is clear
    5. the name and address of the occupier of registered establishment where dairy product was packed into its immediate container, this is the establishment in (d). above, or the name and address of the exporter or consignee
    6. a list of ingredients from largest to smallest proportion (only applicable for inner packaging), as per Food Standards Code 1.2.4 Ingredients, in order of highest to lowest proportions.
    7. identity/batch code
    8. directions for use for food safety reasons

If the exporter/consignee name and address is used instead of the registered establishment occupier name, (e) above should read “PACKED FOR…….”, an example is “PACKED FOR John’s Exports Pty Ltd, 24 Airport Lane Tullamarine, Vic, Australia”.

When describing dairy export product, which often may be exported to a country whose main language isn’t English, full words should be used.  For example, description would be Chocolate Flavoured Milk Powder and not Ch Flav Milk Powder.

Any claims to the nutritional/compositional, shelf-life or any statements around religion or organic status of your dairy export product in your trade description must be supported by validated evidence. For example, if you make any nutritional claims such as “high Calcium milk powder”, you must also include a quantity, for example “32% Calcium milk powder” or you promote an allergen free claim, you must have retrievable records to verify your claim.

As the manufacturer of the product, you are responsible for ensuring that all products you manufacture (including any products that you may contract manufacture for another company) are packaged with accurate and complete trade descriptions that meet export and importing country requirements. This applies even if you have been supplied with pre-printed packaging to use for contract packaging for another company’s products. 

Your approved arrangement needs to detail your responsibility for applying trade descriptions and identify the minimum information that must be included in a trade description. If you have products with different types of packaging (e.g., individual retail packs and bulk containers for food service use or further processing), your documented program must explain any differences in trade description requirements.

Your program will also need to cover how you will meet any importing country labelling requirements, such as foreign language label translations.

Unlabelled canned milk

You don’t need to apply a trade description with all 8 requirements for inner packaging, if,

  1. the product is unlabelled canned milk, transferred from a registered establishment, that has the following information embossed or indelibly applied on the can;
    1. product code
    2. canning registered establishment
    3. country of origin
    4. batch code/use by date to show identity

If cans of milk product don’t have a full trade description applied at the time of filling, they must, as a minimum, have “EX” followed by the “establishment number” embossed or marked indelibly on the can e.g., “EX 58465”.

Bulk loaded milk product

You don’t need to apply a trade description with all 8 requirements for inner packaging if the milk product is bulk loaded into shipping containers or sea containers and

  1. the information required for inner packaging is on the outer container, or
  2. the information is given to the consignee

For point (ii), the exporter should request the manufacturer who packed the product into its immediate container to provide them with the required trade description information (all 8 requirements for inner packaging), and pass this on to the consignee.  

Imported Product

If dairy product is imported and processed in some way (e.g. unpacked and repacked into alternate pack sizes, or the products undergo additional processing prior to repacking), they may be export eligible as long as all export operations are covered in the Approved Arrangement. Your trade descriptions must accurately reflect the product's country of origin.

You can find guidance on how to detail country of origin on your product labelling on the ACCC website.


Product identity must be readily ascertainable. This means that for each lot of dairy export product, the description, batch code and other information on all layers of packaging, should match and not conflict with the trade description.

Importance to food safety and importing country requirements

Accurate labels are important for food safety for a number of reasons.  One is ensuring that the shelf life indicated on the trade description is accurate. An approved arrangement procedure must show evidence to support the claimed shelf life, and fully describe this process.  Records should be made supporting any trade description claims regarding shelf life, use-by and best-before dates.  Ingredients must be accurately listed due to allergen risk.  Your product may be reprocessed overseas, so an accurate ingredient list on your product, will allow the processor to include an accurate ingredient list on their final product.  

Instructions for use are important for food safety, as some dairy products need to be chilled below a certain temperature.  This is important information for freight forwarders, shippers, airlines and warehouses who handle your product.  Clear product identity allows importing authorities and companies to identify your product, and therefore allows you to recall your product if needed.

Particular information may be required to be included in trade descriptions by importing countries.  Countries may require statements such as “Halal” or “Kosher” compliant or weights and volumes need to be in imperial, rather than metric, measurements. 

The system will help ensure food safety by accurately including milk product ingredients and identify information such as lot identity and directions for use.  Your fully documented procedure should describe the full trade description process and be amended when needed, such as when importing country label requirements change or your products change.


Staff involved in developing, approving, applying and reviewing trade descriptions must have appropriate training to do so. For example; staff who initially approve trade descriptions will need to be trained in the use of Micor and the legislative requirements to be met. Responsible staff must know that certain products, such as canned milk, milk product for animal use, milk product manufacturing grade or not fit for human consumption milk product have specific trade description requirements. They also need to know that some processes, such as using a language other than English, has legislative requirements. 

Foreign languages

There are particular requirements if a language other than English is applied to a dairy export product trade description:

  • The translation must not conflict with the English language on the trade description
  • Suitable translation should be provided when requested of a foreign label.
  • The translation should be provided by qualified personnel independent of the establishment processing, storing or handling the goods.

There should be detailed information in the approved arrangement about how to ensure that trade description requirements for languages other than English are managed.

Official forms

Importing country may have an official form needed to be completed for label approval. These details will be included in Micor for that particular country. Dairy Advices are notices sent out by the Department when changes to Micor occur and you can subscribe to them through the department's dairy industry notices including market access advice.

Additional requirements for ‘manufacturing grade milk product’

Manufacturing grade milk and milk products not fit for human consumption without further processing must be identified as “manufacturing grade and not fit for human consumption” or similar wording.

Additional requirements for milk products which are ‘not fit for human consumption’ milk product

Milk products not fit for human consumption (other than manufacturing grade products) must be identified as “not fit for human consumption”, “not for export as food” or similar wording.

Additional requirements for milk product identified as ‘not for retail sale’

You don’t need to apply a trade description with all 8 requirements for inner packaging, if, the milk product is identified as not for retail sale and the information required for inner packaging is on the outer container, before the outer container is loaded for export.

Meeting the trade description requirements helps ensure that your product gains entry into the importing country and can be traced and recalled if needed.

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