02.Action on food labelling
CHOICE’s 5 steps to fix dodgy food labels
CHOICE believes Australians have the right to make informed decisions about what they eat. However, the current rules for food labelling are full of loopholes, making healthy choices difficult for consumers.
CHOICE is campaigning for industry and governments around Australia to act on the recommendations of a major, independent review of food labelling. Given that the last review was 13 years ago, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide consumers with clearer food labelling.
CHOICE has been actively involved in this review, ensuring your voice is heard loud and clear, and many of our recommendations have been taken up in the expert panel’s final report.
CHOICE’s Better Food Labelling campaign has five priorities for action in response to the review:
1. Stamp out dodgy nutrition and health claims, see What is a nutritional claim. CHOICE is calling for the introduction of a nutrient profiling system with which products must comply in order to carry nutrition claims. This would encourage food manufacturers to reformulate their products to make them healthier, while nutrition claims would drop off unhealthy products and make healthy choices easier for consumers.
2. Introduce a traffic light labelling system CHOICE is calling for the introduction of a traffic light labelling system to give consumers at-a-glance nutritional information, helping them make informed decisions about the food they eat. Traffic light labelling is the expert panel’s preferred front-of-pack labelling system and research shows it is effective. CHOICE believes traffic lights are part of the bigger picture in helping consumers make informed decisions. However, some sections of the food industry strongly oppose the system – no doubt even further indication that it will bring genuine benefits to consumers.
3. Improve country-of-origin labelling CHOICE wants to see loopholes in the current country-of-origin (COO) labelling regulations closed, as recommended by the expert panel. COO labelling is a major concern for many consumers, and we recently advocated extending mandatory labelling to unpackaged meat in a submission to the regulator. We also support the panel’s recommendation for a framework covering Australian claims, as the current approach is confusing for many consumers.
4. Develop free-range labelling standards CHOICE supports the development of an Australian Standard on free-range products through Standards Australia that involves industry, government and consumers. Many shoppers are paying a premium for products such as free-range eggs and pork, but the lack of enforceable standards means many products are failing to meet reasonable expectations of what is meant by the free-range label.
5. Establish a better framework for food labelling CHOICE believes Australia’s policy framework for food labelling should put consumers first. We don’t want to find ourselves another 13 years down the track confronting the same problems as today but with even worse consequences. Also, changing the rules around food labelling will mean little unless those changes are enforced.
To create a better framework, CHOICE supports the expert panel’s recommendation for developing a comprehensive nutrition policy that includes the role of food labels, as well as including a definition of public health into Australia’s food standards legislation. These regulatory steps will help improve the long-term health of Australians. We also support the panel’s recommendations for better monitoring and enforcement of food labelling standards to ensure greater consistency and improved protection for consumers.
What happens next?
Before the end of 2011, Australia’s state, territory and federal governments will respond to the recommendations of the independent review of food labelling.
CHOICE’s Better Food Labelling Campaign is taking the consumer voice to these decision-makers and asking them to commit to our five steps to fix dodgy food labels before time runs out.
We’re also calling on industry to help lead the way and work with government to ensure Australian consumers can make informed decisions about what they eat.