Label reform not the star for Aussie food industry

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Milk Nutrition Australia

Label reform not the star for Aussie food industry
While there were celebrations in some quarters following the news last week that Australia would reform its food labelling system, some sections of the food industry have voiced their concern over the new policy.

Australian and New Zealand health and agriculture ministers had given their approval to a new star-rating system for packaged food that is designed, they say, to make it easier for consumers to choose healthy products.

In a similar way to how white goods receive energy ratings, Australian consumers will soon be able to tell at a glance which packaged food is the healthiest option. The system, which will include separate icons for energy, saturated fat, sodium and sugars, will have an overall rating out of five stars.

Rushed policy

While the move has been enthusiastically welcomed by health and consumer advocate groups, industry representatives have not been so positive.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council has sent a warning to the government that serious flaws must be resolved before an effective front-of-pack (FoPL) system can be implemented

Calling the announcement rushed, Gary Dawson, the AFGC’s CEO, said there was no evidence that the legislation will achieve the outcomes it is seeking.

The AFGC and the food processing sector is willing to remain engaged in the development of the FoPL scheme, but a number of outstanding issues will need to be resolved in order to effectively implement an easily understood labelling system to promote healthy, balanced diets​,” Dawson cautioned.

The industry, which is expected to carry the A$200m cost of implementation while dealing with an additional regulatory burden, would try to see if a workable solution could be found, he added.

Dairy discontent

Meanwhile, the dairy sector has voiced concern that the algorithm used to decide which products get high star ratings might give unfair treatment to dairy products. They fear that low star ratings could be given to cheese and milk even though they are recommended as part of a healthy diet.

However, the chairman of the Australian Dairy Industry Council, Noel Campbell, said it was good news that the ministers have agreed to take another look at that detail.

"We believe that some of the issues around fat and sugar didn't fairly represent dairy. Cheese in particular sometimes got a low star rating. Clearly some food groups aren't well represented on this star rating​."

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