The Australian Government is aware of community interest concerning food labelling, particularly the use and labelling of palm oil as an ingredient in food products.
Currently, manufacturers and importers are able to voluntarily declare palm oil in the ingredient list. When palm oil is not declared, consumers can request this information. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code requires the name and address of the supplier to be listed on the label, and many suppliers provide a free call telephone number on their labels.
The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) considers that any actions in relation to consumer value issues, such as palm oil as an ingredient, should generally be initiated by industry self-regulation in response to consumer demand.
In 2011, an independent panel undertook a review of food labelling law and policy. The final report, Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (2011) (Labelling Logic), contained 61 recommendations regarding food labelling.
Recommendation 12 of this report was that, where sugars, fats or vegetable oils are added as separate ingredients in food, the terms ‘added sugars’ and ‘added fats’ and/or ‘added vegetable oils’ be used in the ingredient list as the generic term, followed by a bracketed list (e.g. added sugars [fructose, glucose syrup, honey], added fats [palm oil, milk fat] or added vegetable oils [sunflower oil, palm oil]).
In response to this recommendation, the Forum requested Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) undertake a technical evaluation and provide advice to fully consider the expected benefits and cumulative impacts of possible changes to the labelling requirements.This technical report is now publicly available online on the FSANZ website.
The Forum agreed that further work is required before a decision can be made on palm oil labelling. Therefore, the Food Regulation Standing Committee has prepared policy work to identify next steps in relation to naming sources of fats and oils to support consumers to make informed choices consistent with Australian and New Zealand dietary guidelines.
Further discussion on the proposed policy issue noted the scope of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 does not permit the development of standards on the basis of ecological concerns. Forum members agreed that further work be undertaken over the next 12 months to better identify the problem and provide advice, through:
- the Australian Government Department of Health to request the National Health and Medical Research Council to provide advice on the appropriate dietary guidance that should be provided to consumers to assist them to choose healthy fats and oils, and limit consumption of less healthy fats and oils; and
- seeking input from a Stakeholder Roundtable to be held late 2018 focusing on smart labelling.
This additional advice on fats and oils labelling is to be reported to the Forum in mid 2019.
The Food Regulation website provides a list of current activities and is updated as activities progress. Information on the status of work on fats and oils is provided on the Food Regulation website