Under the regulation, supermarkets must now show the energy count of items like hot chickens, deli meals and bakery items including donuts, cakes and tarts.
The labelling is a pet project of the NSW premier, Barry O’Farrell, who was part of a triumphant launch this week.
“It is my view that people who want to lose weight and get healthier need to take personal responsibility for their food and lifestyle choices,” he said.
“But I believe it is essential that consumers are equipped with nutritional information to encourage them to make balanced food choices.”
O’Farrell estimated that obesity costs the state’s economy around A$19bn a year, and said that over half of the state’s population was either overweight or obese.
Fast food chains with 20 or more outlets in NSW or 50 or more national outlets have been required to display the kilojoule content of all items on their menus since February last year. The labelling of ready-to-eat meals in supermarkets is the next phase of government efforts to inform consumers and curb obesity rates.
Katrina Hodgkinson, the minister for primary industries, said that the policy hadn’t met with resistance from the food industry. “We have enjoyed strong levels of support for this requirement from our industry partners and that is to be commended,” she said.
Indeed, Woolworths’ director of corporate and public affairs, Andrew Hall, welcomed the roll out of the labelling.
“At a glance customers can now see the energy value of many popular ready-to-eat items and make a decision on how those products can fit into their daily energy needs,” he said.
However, it is telling how food manufacturers haven’t been queuing up to celebrate the new regulation. According to a professor at Sydney University’s School of Public Health, they have had plenty of time since the law was passed last year to work out the best way to move forward.
''This sort of thing doesn't happen overnight,'' Louise Baur told the Sydney Morning Herald. ''Industries now have to work out kilojoule content of their food and that may be worrying to them as foods may look somewhat less appealing when people realise the kilojoule content.''