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Australia rejects traffic light labelling as health claim scrutiny rises

1 commentBy Ankush Chibber , 05-Dec-2011

After an intense two weeks of lobbying, Australia’s federal government has ruled out traffic light labelling for food products in the country.

Last week, government appeared to back the system, as members talked up its ability to help consumers make informed choices about their foods.

The recommendations to switch to the traffic light system were made under the Food Labelling Review carried out by a former Australian health minister Dr Neal Blewett in early 2011, but it has been stiffly opposed by large sections of the food industry.

Traffic light labelling uses green, amber and red lights at the front of the pack to show, at a glance, the relative levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium in a food product, and has been argued for by Australian health groups.

However, food processors have not got everything their way. The government also said that it would issue new rules that will improve back-of-pack labelling to give consumers more information on sugar, fat and sugar content in foods.

In addition, the government said that it would formulate new rules under which it would be able to more deeply scrutinise on the use of nutritional and health claims such as “low fat” and “high fibre” on food products.

A smaller change in labelling laws was the government’s support of all alcohol products in the country carrying mandatory pregnancy warnings within the next two years.

Wins, losses

Kate Carnell, chief executive for the Australian Food and Grocery Council, said in a statement to FoodNavigator-Asia that it welcomes the government’s balanced approach to the highly complex issue of food labelling in the country.

Carnell said: “We look forward to working with the government to explore a preferred approach to a single, agreed front-of-pack food labelling system.

“We also welcome the acknowledgment of the Daily Intake Guide [DIG] that currently appears on more than 4000 food products and will be considered in the collaborative process to analyse nutrition rating systems.”

However, Carnell expressed concern over the government’s support for nutrient profiling for nutrition and health claims, adding that this “approach could stifle innovation in new products with healthier attributes.”

Calling the decision a substantial departure from previous proposals, Carnell asked for Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) to conduct a broad-ranging consultative process and a revised impact statement before any changes are announced in this area.

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1 comment (Comments are now closed)

Traffic lights not ruled out - Federal Government one vote from ten

CHOICE would like to clarify that Australia has not ruled out traffic light labelling. The decision on front of pack labelling, and all other reforms recommended by the Blewett Review Panel, is due Friday 9 December. It will involve Australia's 8 state and territory governments and New Zealand's government, as well as the Australian federal government.

While the federal government's announcement was disappointing, it represents just one vote out of 10 and is by no means final.

CHOICE knows that the support for traffic lights among health and medical experts is shared by many consumers who want better food labelling. Those who agree can sign our petition to make sure that their state and territory representatives act in their interests and stand up to industry: http://www.choice.com.au/consumer-action/food-labelling/better-food-labelling-campaign/food-labelling-petition.aspx

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Posted by Angela McDougall, CHOICE Policy Advisor
06 December 2011 | 06h04

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