Food industry excited about possible regulatory reform

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 18th March 2009

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) today welcomed the federal government’s positive response to the Productivity Commission’s Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business: Manufacturing and Distributive Trades.

The AFGC has consistently argued that the productivity of the food and grocery manufacturing industry, Australia’s largest manufacturing industry, was being hampered by a cumbersome, ineffective and politically charged regulatory system.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said that the approach of streamlining regulatory arrangements would improve profitability and save jobs in the food and grocery manufacturing industry.

“We’ve long been the political football of 10 governments and 20 plus government departments and it has had a detrimental effect on the industry,” she said. “It takes an unreasonable amount of time for new standards for innovative food products to be considered and adopted but there is no shortage of new proposals to introduce costly new requirements for labelling and food fortification with very little evidence, if any, that they will benefit consumers. And often at the whim of just one or two jurisdictions.”

The AFGC considers that improvements in the governance of the Ministerial Council will go along way to addressing these issues.

Ms Carnell added that the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy is long overdue but welcome.

“Our hope is that this review will lead to a comprehensive food labelling policy, which will provide a sensible framework for food labelling debates such as front of pack labelling,” she reported. “A national approach to enforcement also makes sense. It’s a nonsense that food composition and labelling standards are enforced differently in different states. It doesn’t result in better public health outcomes. It simply adds costs to industry which then have to be passed on to consumers.”

“In these uncertain financial times, streamlining regulations for industry is a good way to protect jobs – and there are over 200,000 in the food and grocery industry. We encourage the government to push hard down the food regulatory reform path,” Ms Carnell concluded.