Recommendations to improve food labelling law and policy in Australia and New Zealand are contained in the report of an independent panel presented to Federal, State and Territory Governments today.
The report, Labelling Logic, was presented by chair of an independent Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy, Dr Neal Blewett, to the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King. Ms King, chairs of the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council which commissioned the report, praised Dr Blewett and his panel of experts for their work.
“This is a most important review of what are matters of widespread interest to consumers, regulators and the wider food and health sectors,” Ms King said.
“Dr Blewett, as former Health Minister, architect of the modern universal health system in Australia and a strong advocate on consumer issues, has done a great job in leading the panel as it developed this report.
“This Report seeks to address many food labelling issues that have challenged governments here and abroad for many years. The impact of each of the recommendations in this Report will need to be carefully assessed.”
“A range of issues generated considerable debate during the Review process. Examples of these include the role of food labelling in addressing population health priorities, and the extent to which information about food ingredients, production processes, manufacturing technologies, and the presence of additives and allergens should be declared on food labels.
“The establishment of the review was an acknowledgement by all governments that there are a wide range of issues relating to food labelling which need to be addressed including the fundamental question of whether everything we consume is being accurately, clearly and sufficiently labelled.
The Commonwealth response to the recommendations will be guided by three principles:
- Consumers are entitled to have the best possible information and we want food labelling to help Australians make informed decisions when it comes to food;
- That information, in line with the Government’s commitment to improving heath outcomes, should help consumers to make healthy food choices; and
- That we continue to support an innovative, vibrant and sustainable food industry in Australia that actively supports the government’s health agenda.
Ms King said the Ministerial Council was grateful to all who had taken the time to have input into the Independent Review which included two rounds of written submissions and public meetings in all capital cities across Australia and New Zealand.
In addition to Dr Blewett as chair, the review panel included public health law academic, Dr Chris Reynolds, economic and consumer behaviour expert Professor Simone Pettigrew, food and nutrition policy academic Associate Professor Heather Yeatman, and food industry communications, marketing and corporate affairs professional Nick Goddard.
“I thank Dr Blewett and all the panel for their excellent work. The report will now go to the Council of Australian Governments. In addition, I have asked the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing to work in conjunction with other Commonwealth Government Departments and the Ministerial Council (which represents all State and Territory Governments and New Zealand) to develop a whole of government response to the recommendations.” Ms King said.
The development of a government response is going to be a complex task and views on the recommendations are likely to be varied. The Parliamentary Secretary will commence meeting with key stakeholder groups during the coming weeks. The Ministerial Council has suggested that a realistic timeframe to consider a response is December 2011.
More information, including the final Report and copies of public submissions and public consultation meeting records are available at www.foodlabellingreview.gov.au.