Next Steps to Help Consumers Make Healthy Choices
Easier-to-understand nutritional labelling for consumers and greater restrictions on the health claims that can be made about that food are among the Australian Government’s response to a national Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy.
View by date:Previous Ministers
The Hon Nicola Roxon MP30 November 2011
Minister for Health and Ageing
The Hon Catherine King MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing
Easier-to-understand nutritional labelling for consumers and greater restrictions on the health claims that can be made about that food are among the Gillard Government’s response to a national Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy.
The Gillard Government believes consumers want food labelling that provides them with information that will help them make informed decisions about what they buy and eat.
The Government has consulted widely in considering the 61 recommendations from the Review and will take its position to the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation for further discussion on 9 December with the states and territories and the New Zealand Government.
In response to the Review, the Government proposes:
- work begin with the food industry and public health groups to develop a single front-of-pack labelling model that will assist Australian shoppers when they make choices about the food they buy
- standards for nutrition and health claims on food labels such as ‘low fat’, ‘high in fibre’, etc be improved to ensure the labels reflect public health goals and provide meaningful information to consumers
- improvements to back-of-pack labelling to provide consumers with better information about added sugars, fats and vegetable oils
- mandating pregnancy warning labels on alcohol that are currently being used voluntarily by industry within two years.
The Government is concerned that consumers can be confused by health claims made on foods that have a poor nutritional profile. To improve consumer confidence in claims such as ‘calcium for strong bones’ and ‘helps maintain a healthy heart’, the Government proposes that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) only allow foods that meet certain nutritional criteria to be labelled with health claims.
Pregnancy warning labels on alcohol
Already many alcohol producers are voluntarily including pregnancy warning labels on alcohol. Given the strong evidence about the risks of consuming alcohol while pregnant, the Government supports mandating these labels within two years.
The Government does not support traffic light labelling at this time. During consultation with stakeholders, we concluded that there is currently not enough evidence to demonstrate that any of form of front-of-pack labelling, including traffic light labelling and the daily intake guide, provides Australians with the nutritional information they need to make informed choices.
However, the Government does propose that work begin with consumer groups, public health groups and the food industry to develop a single front-of-pack labelling model that can provide consumers with better nutritional information.
Where sugars, fats or vegetable oils are added as separate ingredients in a food, the Government believes consumers should be able to look to the back of the packet to find out what specific kind of sugars, fats and oils are included, instead of the generic term. The Government supports FSANZ being asked to consider how this might be done, with a view to consumers seeing the generic term appear on the back-of-packet, followed by a bracketed list (e.g., “added sugars (fructose, glucose syrup, honey)”, “added fats (vegetable fat, milk fat)” or “added vegetable oils (sunflower oil, palm oil)”).
Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing Catherine King MP said improving food labelling will help Australian consumers make better decisions.
“Our approach has been to work with industry and public health groups to achieve the best possible outcome for consumers,” Minister Roxon said.
“The dangers of drinking while pregnant are now well established, and the Government proposes extending the industry’s early steps to inform women of these dangers so that pregnancy warning labels appear on all alcohol within two years,” Minister Roxon said.
“The Commonwealth, states and territories together with New Zealand will consider a single agreed response to the Review at a meeting of food ministers on 9 December, but given the level of public interested, we wanted to foreshadow the position the Commonwealth will take to the meeting,” Ms King said.
“I look forward to consulting with and advocating the Commonwealth’s position to my state, territory and New Zealand colleagues at the Food Regulation Ministerial Council in December,” Ms King said.
The Government also recognises that the impact of each of the recommendations in this Report will need to be carefully assessed before a final decision can be made. In addition, the Government will support a broader definition for “public health” when defining food standards and the development of a National Nutritional Policy.
Further details about the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy can be found here: http://www.foodlabellingreview.gov.au/
The detailed position of the Commonwealth’s response to each of the 61 recommendations is attached.
For Minister Roxon’s Office on 02 6277 7220 OR Parliamentary Secretary King’s Office on 02 6277 4230
|Recommendation in Labelling Logic||Commonwealth Position|
|Rec 1: That the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 be amended to include a definition of public health to the effect that: ‘Public Health is the organised response by society to protect and promote health and to prevent illness, injury and disability’.||Agree |
A definition of public health will be developed and inserted into the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 which is consistent with the original intent of the Australian and New Zealand governments in terms of the role and function of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
A policy guideline will also be developed to provide clearer direction to FSANZ in relation to the role of food standards in supporting public health objectives.
|Rec 2: That food labelling policy be guided by an issues hierarchy in descending order of food safety, preventative health, new technologies and consumer values issues. Regulatory action in relation to food safety, preventative health and new technologies should primarily be initiated by government and referenced in the Food Standards Code. Regulatory action in relation to consumer values issues should generally be initiated by industry and referenced to consumer protection legislation, with the possibility of some specific methods or processes of production being referenced in the Food Standards Code. |
The modes of intervention should be mandatory for food safety; a mixture of mandatory and co-regulation for preventative health, the choice dependent on government health priorities and the effectiveness or otherwise of co-regulatory measures; and mandatory with time limits for new technologies. The modes of intervention for consumer values issues should be self-regulatory but subject to more prescriptive forms of intervention in cases of market failure or the ineffectiveness of self-regulatory schemes.
|Agree in principle|
It is important to have a conceptual framework and labelling hierarchy to guide decisions and responses from the food regulatory system in the context of management of risks.
However the framework proposed by the Review should be modified to comprise three tiers rather than four – food safety, preventative health and consumer values issues. New technologies should not be a separate tier but rather each new technology should be considered on a case-by-case basis (as is currently the case) and, whenever mandatory labelling is proposed, it should be subject to an automatic sunset and review after a defined period.
An overarching policy guideline would be developed by the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council) which outlines how the framework and decision making process would operate and rationales for time periods for mandatory labelling requirements and sunsetting clauses for reviews.
|Rec 3: That once the case for a labelling standard has been established and becomes part of the Food Standards Code, sufficient resources be allocated to ensure that it is effectively monitored and enforced.||Agree|
There should be effective monitoring and enforcement. It is noted that this is a matter for relevant agencies and the level of resourcing to support monitoring regimes is subject to those monitoring and enforcement agencies priorities.
|Rec 4: That consumer protection concerns be accorded a high priority by the relevant government agencies and complaints be properly processed and resolved.||Agree |
There should be effective mechanisms to deal with concerns and complaints However, this is largely a matter for states and territories and their consumer protection enforcement agencies.
|Rec 5: That information on food labels be presented in a clear and comprehensible manner to enhance understanding across all levels of the population.||Agree in principle|
It is recognised that the label will never be able to include every piece of information every consumer will want, but it should always aim to be clear and comprehensible to as large a percentage of the population as possible. This is an overarching principle that should guide any labelling.
|Rec 6: That the food safety elements on the food label be reviewed with the aim to maximise the effectiveness of food safety communication.||Agree|
FSANZ should undertake a technical review and provide advice on options that could inform the final decision on any changes to the Food Standards Code. The review could also consider whether guidance should be provided to industry, rather than changes being made to the Food Standards Code.
|Rec 7: That there be more effective monitoring and enforcement of the existing requirements in the Food Standards Code to provide mandatory warning and advisory statements and allergen declarations on packages of food not for retail sale, foods for sale at restaurants and other food outlets, foods from mobile food vendors and vending machines, and foods for catering purposes.||Agree in principle|
It is important to determine the extent of the issue and risk. However, this is a matter for relevant enforcement agencies and there are mechanisms in place or already planned (for example: implementing the outcomes of a recent review of monitoring and enforcing allergen labelling; and the Implementation Sub-Committee (ISC) compliance and monitoring survey processes) to ensure effective monitoring and enforcement.
|Rec 8: That the Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling system be explored as a possible supplementary model to manage food label declarations relating to the adventitious presence of allergens in foods.||Agree in principle|
FSANZ should consult with Anaphylaxis Australia and provide advice on the adequacy of the current voluntary approach.
|Rec 9: That a comprehensive Nutrition Policy be developed that includes a framework for the roles of the food label. Key aspects of the framework to be:|
a. the provision of food safety and nutrition information and education strategies to protect and promote the health of the population, including articulated roles for food label elements;
b. the encouragement of the provision of healthy foods within the food supply to facilitate healthy diets;
c. the setting and application of nutrient criteria and dietary guidance;
d. the facilitation of social and other research to improve understanding of how label information is used and its impact on food selection, eating behaviours and the food supply;
e. the establishment of monitoring and surveillance systems for dietary/nutrition practices that include the use and understanding of food labels.
Such a policy should be developed as a priority, within the framework of the governments’ preventative health agendas and cognisant of the present Australian initiatives on food security and a national food plan.
|Agree in principle|
The Commonwealth supports the development of a nutrition policy. .
|Rec 10: That the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 be amended to require Food Standards Australia New Zealand to ‘have regard’ to the comprehensive Nutrition Policy when developing or reviewing labelling standards.||Agree in principle|
It will be important for FSANZ to have regard to the Nutrition Policy, when such a policy is developed. However there are already mechanisms available – other than legislative ones - such as Ministerial Policy Statements and Guidelines, to ensure FSANZ has regard to key policies. Therefore a Ministerial policy statement should be issued to achieve the same outcome.
|Rec 11: That industry develop in consultation with government, medical authorities and relevant consumer organisations a voluntary code of practice and education initiatives to enable consumers to quickly identify label information relating to additives, colourings and flavourings that are of agreed medical priority for sensitive consumers.||Agree |
These are matters for industry to progress as they fall within the industry self-regulation component of the food labelling hierarchy. The Commonwealth encourages industry to explore these further and will work with industry where necessary to achieve these goals.
|Rec 12: That where sugars, fats or vegetable oils are added as separate ingredients in a 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)).||Agree in Principle|
The Commonwealth agrees in principle with consumers having information about added sugars, fats and vegetable oils.
This recommendation should be referred to FSANZ to undertake a technical review and provide advice before a final decision is made.
|Rec 13: That mandatory declaration of all trans fatty acids above an agreed threshold be introduced in the Nutrition Information Panel if manufactured trans fatty acids have not been phased out of the food supply by January 2013.||Agree in Principle |
It is recognised that industry has already achieved a significant reduction in trans fatty acids and that the levels of trans fatty acids in the Australian diet is well below the at risk level. Therefore the Commonwealth considers that no further specific action is warranted at this time. However, FSANZ should continue to monitor levels of trans fatty acids should further action be required in the future.
|Rec 14: That declaration of total and naturally occurring fibre content be considered as a mandatory requirement in the Nutrition Information Panel.||Agree in Principle |
The Commonwealth does not consider mandatory labelling of fibre content is necessary at this time, however this recommendation should be referred to FSANZ for technical advice.
|Rec 15: That voluntary declaration of potassium content in the Nutrition Information Panel be actively considered by industry. If nutritional policy guidance recommends the reduction in consumption of potassium for at-risk population groups in the future, disclosure of potassium in the Nutrition Information Panel should become mandatory.||Agree |
This is a matter for industry to progress as it falls within the industry self-regulation component of the food labelling hierarchy. The Commonwealth encourages industry to undertake further consideration and notes that this matter will be reviewed if nutritional policy guidance makes recommendations in relation to potassium.
|Rec 16: That social research be undertaken to determine effective mechanisms to present sodium/salt information on food labels to facilitate consumers’ understanding and use of this information.||Agree in principle|
The current position in Australia is to list sodium not salt. Whilst it is recognised that there is confusion about sodium and salt, further social research is not justified given that there is significant research already available both within Australia and internationally.
|Rec 17: That the declaration in the Nutrition Information Panel of amount of nutrients per serve be no longer mandatory unless a daily intake claim is made.||Do not agree|
The declaration of nutrients per serve is an important tool that assists consumers with their food selection. The Commonwealth supports maintaining the status quo.
|Rec 18: That declaration of energy content of standardised food items on the menu/menu boards or in close proximity to the food display or menu be mandatory in chain food service outlets and on vending machines. Further, information equivalent to that provided by the Nutrition Information Panel should be available in a readily accessible form in chain food service outlets.||Agree|
Currently a number of jurisdictions are introducing legislation that is largely addressing this issue, except for inclusion of vending machines. The Ministerial Council has endorsed a set of principles to ensure consistency where a jurisdiction does choose to legislate.
Evaluation of current initiatives may provide an informed basis for further consideration of requirements for vending machines.
|Rec 19: That a responsive regulatory approach to the use of simple words and terms that may infer health implications be commenced, with the food industry working with Food Standards Australia New Zealand to develop a Code of Practice covering consistent use of definitions for such words and terms, with a view to their use being restricted if appropriate constraint is not implemented.||Agree in principle|
This is a matter for industry to progress as it falls within the industry self-regulation component of the food labelling hierarchy. The Commonwealth supports the development of an industry code in consultation with the ACCC and FSANZ.
|Rec 20: That the Standard for nutrition, health and related claims on food labels which reflects agreed public health goals be finalised and that it include the following:|
a. a hierarchy of substantiation of claims at the various levels, that would encompass use of defined nutrition words and terms, pre-approved relationships, authoritative sources, systematic review and pre-market assessment and approval;
b. a requirement that all foods that carry a nutrition, health and related claim comply with an agreed nutrient profiling system;
c. a requirement that the presence of a nutrition, health and related claim triggers relevant information disclosures in the Nutrition Information Panel or ingredients list; and
d. a requirement that the presence of a general or high level claim triggers display of standardised front-of-pack label information.
|Agree to recommendation 20 (a) and (c) |
FSANZ is currently finalising a standard on health claims and is due to report to the Ministerial Council in December on its progress.
Agree in part 20 (b)
Nutrient profiling should be applied in some cases but not all.
Do not agree recommendation 20 (d)
On hold pending resolution of recommendation 50 (Front-of-Pack Labelling).
|Rec 21: That applications for trade names and trademarks be scrutinised by the relevant agencies to identify and reject words and devices that have the effect of inferring health implications that are otherwise prohibited under the Food Standards Code.||Agree in principle |
Currently there are processes for opposing a trademark if it is likely to deceive or cause confusion. The relevant agencies will come together to identify what further work could be done in relation to this recommendation.
|Rec 22: That mandatory messages supporting preventative health strategies may be instigated by governments, provided the following conditions are met:|
substantiation requirements are fulfilled — the epidemiological evidence is strong;
the message is consistent with the comprehensive Nutrition Policy;
food labelling is an appropriate response to the problem; and
the label is one part of a multifaceted campaign.
|Agree in principle|
This provides useful criteria under which to assess and justify mandatory labelling if it was to be instigated.
|Rec 23: That a consistent, seamless regulatory approach for nutrition, health and related claims be adopted for food, complementary medicines and dietary supplements.||Agree in principle|
The Ministerial Council does not have responsibility for therapeutic goods.
However current work by FSANZ on health claims includes consideration of this matter; a joint FSANZ, ISC, Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) working group is currently identifying gaps and inconsistencies with a view to addressing; and the establishment of new Australian and New Zealand Therapeutics Products Agency may assist.
|Rec 24: That generic alcohol warning messages be placed on alcohol labels but only as an element of a comprehensive multifaceted national campaign targeting the public health problems of alcohol in society.||Do not pursue at this time|
The Commonwealth will not mandate generic alcohol warning labels at this time, but supports continued monitoring of voluntary initiatives introduced by the alcohol industry.
Industry, government and public health representatives should explore ways of monitoring uptake of industry voluntary initiatives within a reasonable timeframe.
|Rec 25: That a suitably worded warning message about the risks of consuming alcohol while pregnant be mandated on individual containers of alcoholic beverages and at the point of sale for unpackaged alcoholic beverages, as support for ongoing broader community education.||Agree |
Given the strong evidence about the risks of consuming alcohol while pregnant, the Commonwealth agrees to pursue this recommendation.
However, noting the voluntary steps industry has already taken in this area, the Commonwealth proposes allowing industry a period of two years to take this step voluntarily before regulating for this change.
|Rec 26: That energy content be displayed on the labels of all alcoholic beverages, consistent with the requirements for other food products.||Do not pursue at this time|
Reviewing voluntary initiatives recently introduced by the alcohol industry should occur before any further decisions are made about alcohol labelling. The Ministerial Council may wish to issue a policy statement about its concern about alcohol and energy.
|Rec 27: That drinks that are mixtures of alcohol and other beverages comply with all general nutrition labelling requirements, including disclosure of a mandatory Nutrition Information Panel.||Agree in principle|
This should be referred to FSANZ to provide technical advice before a final decision is made about further labelling.
|Rec 28: That as a general principle all foods or ingredients that have been processed by new technologies (i.e., all technologies that trigger pre-market food safety assessments) be required to be labelled for 30 years from the time of their introduction into the human food chain; the application of this principle to be based on scientific evidence of direct impact on, or modification of, the food/ingredient to be consumed. At the expiry of that period the mandatory labelling should be reviewed.||Do not agree|
There is already a process in place to ensure that new technologies are safe before entering the food supply. As outlined in the response to recommendation 2, each should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
|Rec 29: That only foods or ingredients that have altered characteristics or contain detectable novel DNA or protein be required to declare the presence of genetically modified material on the label.||Agree|
This reflects status quo including the exemption for flavours and the threshold for unintentional presence.
|Rec 30: That any detection of an adventitious genetically modified event be followed by a period of monitoring and testing of that food or ingredient.||Do not agree |
This would be difficult to justify with no breach of the Code and no evidence of such to justify the cost to establish.
|Rec 31: That foods or ingredients with flavours containing detectable novel DNA or protein not be exempt from the requirements to declare the presence of genetically modified material on the label.||Agree in principle|
There is no reason to exempt flavours however this should be referred to FSANZ for review and further advice.
|Rec 32: That foods or ingredients that have been genetically modified and would require declaration if labelled be declared on menu/menu boards or in close proximity to the food display or menu in chain food service outlets and on vending machines.||Do not agree|
Restaurants and food service outlets should provide this information upon request or could do it voluntarily.
|Rec 33: That governments ensure effective monitoring of labelling requirements in the Food Standards Code relating to genetically modified foods or ingredients through support for sufficient Australian and New Zealand laboratories, observing world best practice protocols, and with the necessary resources and analytical skills.||Agree in principle|
Currently the laboratories in Australia and New Zealand do not have the technology to undertake all the testing required for this level of monitoring. There would be significant costs involved in providing the laboratories with these technologies. It may be more cost effective to utilise overseas laboratories that already have this capability. Monitoring is also subject to resource priorities of respective enforcement agencies. There is currently a National Compliance and Monitoring Strategy for GM Foods agreed by jurisdictions. Both the Implementation Sub-Committee and FSANZ have surveillance and monitoring regimes in place, for example the survey of GM in soy based infant formula in 2011.
|Rec 34: That the requirement for mandatory labelling of irradiated food be reviewed.||Agree|
FSANZ should be requested to carry out a review of the need for mandatory labelling, noting that new information is available about the benefits associated with irradiation, including from the WHO. If the review indicates mandatory labelling should not continue, this will reduce regulatory burden on industry.
|Rec 35: That Food Standards Australia New Zealand and other relevant bodies develop as a matter of urgency a standard for regulating the presence of nanotechnology in the food production chain, consistent with the recommendations in this Report relating to new technologies.||Agree |
Support the development of a new standard leveraging off the procedures FSANZ already has in place to assess safety of foods containing nanoparticles.
|Rec 36: That Food Standards Australia New Zealand consider adopting, by reference in the Food Standards Code, values-based definitions and/or standards relating to specific food production methods and processes, if requested by industry, to achieve consistency of definitions.||Agree in principle|
This is a matter for industry to progress as it falls within the industry self-regulation component of the food labelling hierarchy. FSANZ may assist industry if requested.
|Rec 37: That the relevant livestock industries consider the benefit of establishing agreed standards under the auspices of Standards Australia or Standards New Zealand for terms related to animal husbandry (e.g., ‘free range’, ‘barn laid’ and ‘caged’ in the case of poultry).||Agree|
This is a matter for industry to progress as it falls within the industry self-regulation component of the food labelling hierarchy. Government agencies may assist in facilitating if requested.
|Rec 38: That the value of industry-initiated self-regulatory intervention be recognised and that industry in collaboration with special interest groups further develop and apply a responsive and more structured self-regulatory approach to consumer values issues that incorporates: |
a. the role that voluntary codes of practice can play in relation to the evolution of standard definitions for values-based claims;
b. the role that certification schemes can play in effectively communicating values-based messages; and
c. the development of agreed standards through existing frameworks such as International Organization for Standardization, Standards Australia or Standards New Zealand.
This is a matter for industry to progress as it falls within the industry self-regulation component of the food labelling hierarchy. A number of industry sectors have already commenced work in this area (eg: Australian Food and Grocery Council voluntary code of practice for food labelling and promotion 2010 including guidance on front-of-pack labelling, date marking and allergen labelling practices). Government agencies may assist in facilitating if requested.
|Rec 39: That a monitoring regime for self-regulatory measures be established and when evidence of systemic failure to provide accurate and consistent values-based information to enable consumers to make informed choices is found, a more prescriptive mode of regulation is triggered.||Agree in principle|
There are currently industry and community monitoring systems in place which identify when issues arise. Regulatory agencies are aware when this occurs and respond appropriately, including through consumer protection agencies. Government could work with industry to develop a more consistent approach to the development and monitoring of self regulatory measures. Market failure is not sufficient by itself to warrant government intervention and a cost benefit analysis would need to be undertaken before a more prescriptive mode of regulation was triggered.
|Rec 40: That Australia’s existing mandatory country-of-origin labelling requirements for food be maintained and be extended to cover all primary food products for retail sale.||Agree|
FSANZ is currently extending Country-of-Origin Labelling (CoOL) to beef, lamb and chicken, noting that the work does not include dairy products.
|Rec 41: That mandatory requirements for country-of-origin labelling on all food products be provided for in a specific consumer product information standard for food under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 rather than in the Food Standards Code.||Do not pursue at this time|
The Commonwealth will give further internal consideration to this issue before deciding to pursue any changes to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 in relation to this issue.
|Rec 42: That for foods bearing some form of Australian claim, a consumer-friendly, food-specific country-of-origin labelling framework, based primarily on the ingoing weight of the ingredients and components (excluding water), be developed.||Do not agree |
There are practical difficulties with adopting a framework based on ingoing weight of ingredients and components.
However the Commonwealth will give further internal consideration to this issue, including reviewing current information available to consumers and industry about CoOL.
|Rec 43: That the Perceptible Information Principle be used as a guide for labelling presentation to maximise label comprehension among a wide range of consumers.||Agree in principle|
Information on the label should be clear and understandable. The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) should be requested to develop appropriate principles within its current Code of Practice on Food Labelling and Advertising.
|Rec 44: That a minimum font size of 3.5mm in an open font style in mixed case be applied for mandated information, with the exception of small package sizes where the minimum font size should be 1.5mm.||Do not pursue at this time|
|Rec 45: That a set of guidelines be developed in consultation with industry that includes reference to other presentation factors such as letter and line spacing, text justification and stroke width.||Do not pursue at this time|
|Rec 46: That a minimum contrast level of 70% for mandated information be stipulated in the Food Standards Code.||Do not pursue at this time|
|Rec 47: That warning and advisory statements be emboldened and allergens emboldened both in the ingredients list and in a separate list.||Do not pursue at this time|
|Rec 48: That industry be encouraged to develop a set of guidelines relating to the co-location of mandatory health information presented in a standardised manner on the label. Government should facilitate this process through the provision of appropriate resources and expertise.||Agree |
This is a matter for industry to progress as it falls within the industry self-regulation component of the food labelling hierarchy. FSANZ will also be asked to provide technical advice on the value and practicality.
|Rec 49: That the development of an automated label assessment tool be investigated that can gauge a label’s compliance with mandated legibility requirements and those stipulated in relevant voluntary codes.||Do not pursue at this time|
There are existing initiatives in place to assist industry such as:
|Rec 50: That an interpretative front-of-pack labelling system be developed that is reflective of a comprehensive Nutrition Policy and agreed public health priorities.||Agree in principle|
Increasing concerns about obesity and other public health issues demonstrate the timeliness of developing a consensus approach to the way information about foods is presented in food labelling. There is broad support to build upon common ground between industry, public health and consumer stakeholders to develop a Front of Pack Labelling (FoPL) scheme that can support consumer choices about healthier food options.
The Commonwealth does not support traffic light labelling at this stage given the lack of existing evidence that such a system would be effective.
The Commonwealth agrees to establish a collaborative process with key stakeholders under the auspices of the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) to seek a broad consensus on a preferred approach to interpretive FoPL. The collaborative process should analyse current nutrition rating systems and the scientific evidence that underlies them, including the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) Daily Intake Guide (DIG).
Industry and consumers will be best served by the subsequent development of a single, simple FoPL food guidance system which promotes healthy eating choices, does not create a burden for industry and is easily understood by consumers.
The Commonwealth supports the voluntary implementation by industry of any agreed FoPL system, to be introduced with a public awareness and promotion campaign and supports ongoing monitoring, research and evaluation of any agreed FoPL system and its implementation and adoption by industry and consumers.
|Rec 51: That a multiple traffic lights front-of-pack labelling system be introduced. Such a system to be voluntary in the first instance, except where general or high level health claims are made or equivalent endorsements/trade names/marks appear on the label, in which case it should be mandatory.||Do not pursue at this time|
|Rec 52: That government advice and support be provided to producers adopting the multiple traffic lights system and that its introduction be accompanied by comprehensive consumer education to explain and support the system.||Do not pursue at this time|
|Rec 53: That ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the multiple traffic lights system be undertaken to assess industry compliance and the effectiveness of the system in improving the food supply and influencing consumers’ food choices.||Do not pursue at this time|
|Rec 54: That chain food service outlets across Australia and New Zealand be encouraged to display the multiple traffic lights system on menus/menu boards. Such a system be mandatory where general or high level health claims are made or equivalent endorsements/trade names/marks are used.||Do not pursue at this time|
|Rec 55: That any beverages containing alcohol be exempt from nutrition-related front-of-pack labelling requirements.||Do not pursue at this time|
|Rec 56: That the potential of new information technologies be considered by consumer organisations, industry and government to provide extended product labelling for non-mandatory information.||Agree |
This is a matter for industry to progress as it falls within the industry self-regulation component of the food labelling hierarchy. The Commonwealth supports the work being undertaken by industry in this area.
|Rec 57: That monitoring and enforcement of food labelling requirements of the Food Standards Code (accuracy as well as the presence of labelling information) be considered equally important as other aspects of the Food Standards Code and the responsible agencies be given the appropriate level of resources to meet their obligations.||Agree in principle|
It is noted that monitoring and enforcement is a matter for states and territories; matters relating to public health and safety should be of priority; and not all labelling requirements would be of equal importance.
|Rec 58: That the Model Food Provisions and the food acts of the jurisdictions be amended to allow a more versatile range of enforcement provisions, such as the power to make orders or require user-paid compliance testing consequent on a breach or impose enforceable undertakings in relation to non-compliant labelling.||Agree |
This should be broader than labelling to apply to all food standard compliance matters.
In addition, FSANZ in conjunction with jurisdictions is reviewing all standards, identifying where issues, anomalies and uncertainty may lie.
The new Code Interpretation Service established in July 2011 by FSANZ, and supported by jurisdictions, can provide advice on compliance with standards in Chapters 1 and 2 of the Code.
|Rec 59: That consumer protection concerns related to food labelling be accorded a high priority by the relevant consumer protection agencies (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, New Zealand Commerce Commission, and State and Territory consumer protection agencies) and complaints be processed and resolved in a timely and transparent manner.||Agree |
There should be effective mechanisms in place to deal with concerns and complaints, noting that this is a matter for relevant consumer protection agencies.
It is noted that priority is currently based on the mechanism as determined by consumer protection enforcement agencies and there may be limited scope for prioritising food higher (or over) other matters as priority goes to matters of significant consumer detriment and national interest issues.
|Rec 60: That food standards always be drafted with the understanding that they are intended to be enforceable legal documents. Where current deficiencies in the labelling requirements have been identified, standards should be re-drafted to make the obligations clear.||Agree|
FSANZ is currently responding to a review of the Food Standards Code conducted by the Office of Legislative Drafting, identifying where issues, anomalies and uncertainty can be clarified.
In the interim, the new Code Interpretation Service established in July 2011 by FSANZ,and supported by jurisdictions, can provide advice on compliance with standards in Chapters 1 and 2 of the Code.
|Rec 61: That a new and effectively resourced entity in the form of a trans-Tasman Food Labelling Bureau be established under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 to undertake the functions as specified in this Report and more generally to:|
a. be the primary contact for, and source of, food labelling information and advice;
b. undertake research into food labelling issues;
c. undertake a general educational role in relation to food labelling issues and requirements;
d. assist industry to comply with labelling requirements;
e. act as a clearinghouse for complaints and facilitate compliance and the resolution of complaints;
f. monitor and report on food labelling compliance; and
g. monitor consumer values issues claims on labels and liaise with consumer protection agencies in relation to confusing, misleading or deceptive food labelling.
|Agree in principle|
The Commonwealth does not support the establishment of a new government body as many of the proposed functions of the proposed bureau are already in place. However it is recognised that these could be enhanced and made more effective.
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