Allergen labelling a life and death matter – reminder to food businesses

(The following article has been reproduced with permission of Food Standards Australia New Zealand).

Yesterday Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) announced a month-long campaign aimed at reminding food businesses about the need to get allergen labelling right.  

FSANZ Acting Chief Executive Officer Peter May said the campaign was timed to coincide with Australia’s Food Allergy Week (May 14‒20). 

“Food businesses in Australia and New Zealand need to be across the mandatory allergen labelling requirements in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code,” Mr May said. 

“Correct allergen labelling can mean the difference between life and death for people with food allergies so it is vital that food businesses meet labelling requirements.  

“There are currently nine foods which must be declared whenever they are present as ingredients or as components of food additives or processing aids. Lupins are expected to be added to the list this month. 

“If the food is not in a package or is not required to have a label (for example, food prepared at and sold from a takeaway shop), this information must either be displayed in connection with the food or provided to the purchaser if requested.” 

Mr May said FSANZ would be running a social media and media outreach campaign for one month to educate food businesses about the importance of allergen labelling.  

“FSANZ supports the important work of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia and its New Zealand counterpart —Allergy New Zealand—in raising awareness about food allergies. Both these organisations also provide important input to allergen-related work undertaken by FSANZ.” 

More information  

Read about Food Allergy Week 

Information about allergen labelling  

Video – FSANZ CEO Mark Booth talks about mandatory allergen labelling 

Victoria stalls kilojoules-on-menus decision

The Victorian Government may not continue with the previous administration’s decision to force restaurants with more than fifty Victorian outlets, or 200 nationally, to print nutritional information on menus.

The legislation was announced by the Brumby Government, but was not passed before the election. A spokeswoman for the new Health Minister David Davis told The Age it was still “under consideration”.

Public health lobby group, the Obesity Policy Coalition (which represents the Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and VicHealth) urged the government to enact the legislation, but said regulation at a federal level would be preferable.

Senior policy adviser for the group, Jane Martin, told The Age that research showed labelling had been effective in making people choose healthier foods with lower energy content, particularly in the US, which now has a national law, and that it was also increasingly difficult to identify a truly healthy meal at some stores that made many unhealthy products sound good for you.
Source: Australian Food News

Yarra Council to put a chill on diners

A move to charge cafe and restaurant owners more than $100 if they use outdoor heaters has been derided as ludicrous by angry residents and businesses.

Yarra Council has voted to levy an annual fee of $105 on those traders in the alfresco dining strips of Richmond, Fitzroy and Collingwood who use the heaters.

The council says it is pushing the policy to discourage the use of heaters, in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.

It will spend the cash raised from the tax on blankets for traders who rip out their heaters, so they can give them to their diners to ward off the chill.

But residents are outraged by the proposal, saying they won’t dine in outdoor areas without heaters.
“The council has gone too far. This is just ridiculous,” said local Geof Lord.

“It will be bad for business, bad for the area, bad for tourism. It will ruin Melbourne’s iconic cafe culture.”

Local trader Richard Konirik is organising a protest against the council action, saying it will cripple businesses.

“We think Yarra Council are anti-businesses,” Mr Konirik said.

“The council needs to look after the traders instead of trying to dictate to them. The traders on Bridge Rd are outraged and just disillusioned by the local government,” he said.

The protest is planned for the Richmond Town Hall steps on June 7 at 9am.

Yarra Council is the same council that this week voted six to one in favour of an injecting room at Richmond, in an attempt to deal with drug use and overdoses on Victoria Street. The State Government says it does not support the plan.

Source: Herald Sun

Recommendations to improve food labelling law and policy in Australia

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.

New ‘Grown in’ labels to clarify food sources

A new label providing information on the country of origin of some foods has been introduced nationally.

Minister of Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, said the new ‘Grown in’ label, which is similar to existing labels such as ‘Made in’ and ‘Product of,’ will provide clarity for consumers about the source of foods as well as offer new protection for suppliers.

“The new arrangements will protect growers, processors and retailers from legal action if they meet the criteria for ‘Grown in’ claims in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL),” he said.

“The new rules will help consumers to buy Australian produce with confidence.  Producers will be more confident about marking goods as ‘Grown in Australia’ and consumers will have more certainty that they are buying Australian-grown produce.

“Consumers will remain protected from false origin claims by the enforcement activities of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the State and Territory authorities, under existing mechanisms.”

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, said the new provision will help inform consumer choice in making purchasing decisions.

“These changes deliver on our commitment to ‘simplify and strengthen food labelling laws including a new Grown in Australia label’.”

The ACL is a cooperative reform of the Australian and state and territory governments aimed at harmonising regulation.

The ACL took effect nationally on 1 January 2011.