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Front-of-Pack labelling has stakeholder support in NZ, report suggests

By Ankush Chibber , 30-Apr-2012

A New Zealand study suggests industry stakeholders favour a new Front-of-Pack (FOP) labelling regime, but more “real-life” research is needed.

Louise Signal, associate professor at the Health Promotion and Policy Research Unit & HIA Research Unit, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, was one of the lead researchers on the study.

 “Barriers to front-of-pack labelling included limited evidence upon which to make decisions, lack of agreement on the label format, and the clash of values between profit driven industry and public health,” she told FoodNavigator-Asia

“But there is a high level of agreement about the need for real-life research on the effectiveness of FOP labelling. Australian and New Zealand ministers are considering which front of pack labelling system to consider.”

She warned, consensus would be difficult to achieve, “given health support for traffic light labels and industry for daily intake guide.” 

There is no specific FOP nutrition labelling policy in New Zealand, although the issue is under consideration by the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council.

“…barely enough to field a strong rugby squad…”

Katherine Rich, chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council (NZFGC), however debunked the 17-person study, and told FoodNavigator-Asia that the work suffers from faulty extrapolation.

“Seventeen people are barely enough to field a strong rugby squad here in New Zealand, let alone a representative group to cover policy makers, government, the food industry and non-government organisations,” she said. 

“When there were only 17 people who participated in this study, it’s vital to list who the respondents actually were.  We disagree that the comments of the five food industry people can be representative, but also making comments about the government policy makers is also misleading.”

Rich said no industry thought-leaders indicated they have been part of the work, “so it’s a mystery where the information came from.”

Traffic light confusion

Rich reiterated the industry position that traffic lights did not present a magic solution, despite being favoured by many academics.

“When full sugar carbonated beverages will attract three green lights and one red and milk will attract 3 orange lights and one green, it would be interesting to see what consumers would pick as being the healthier option,” she said.

The research saw participation of a strategic sample of 17 participants including five food industry representatives, six policy makers, and six representatives of non-governmental organisations.

The University of Otago and the University of Auckland were involved in the project that was part of a larger project funded by the Health Research Council, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and the Ministry of Health.

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