The Ministerial Forum for Food Regulation's August meeting heralds major changes in food labelling. CHOICE welcomes big changes to added sugar labelling, but says that recommendations to improve the Health Star Rating system do not go far enough.
"CHOICE has called for clear information about added sugars on the back of food packs and we are pleased to see this endorsed by Ministers," says CHOICE Food Policy Expert Linda Przhedetsky.
"Right now, it's impossible to know how much added sugar is in the food that we eat. We need actual information, not marketing on our food labels. The Forum's decisions to review added sugar labelling options is a major step forward to better labels."
Though the consumer advocate welcomes the review of added sugar, CHOICE says that the recommendations outlined in the Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System are a missed opportunity to improve Australia's flagship front-of-pack labelling system.
"The recommendations do not go far enough to ensure that the Health Star Rating system works for consumers," says Przhedetsky.
"We need meaningful targets to force manufacturers to use ratings. Otherwise, companies will continue to pick and choose which products display Health Stars. The report recommends a 70% uptake target but this isn't good enough - it will still leave three out of ten products without clear health information."
CHOICE has called for a Health Star Rating System that is mandatory, free from undue industry influence, and penalises sugary and salty snacks appropriately.
Przhedetsky says, "The report's recommendations give manufacturers a green light to keep packing food with added sugar and salt - while cashing in on undeserved high Health Star Ratings. The report's modest recommendations do not go far enough to penalise unhealthy foods."
The report's recommendations contain some positive changes like the removal of the energy icon on beverages, and the automatic allocation of 5-star ratings to fresh, frozen and canned fruit and vegetables (with no added sugar, salt or fats).
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