Ministers identify Australian food product labelling priorities

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th December 2011

Australian and New Zealand ministers today put nutrition and preventative health at the heart of a plan to reform laws on packaged food and drink product labelling in Australia.

Ministers met in Melbourne today to consider their response to the recommendations in the Food Labelling Review Report, Labelling Logic (also known as the Blewett report).

This was the first meeting of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (Forum). The Forum on Food Regulation replaces the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council.

The ministers agreed to the development of a ‘National Nutrition Policy’. Through this, government guidelines will outline the role of food standards in supporting public health objectives.

Other key initiatives agreed by the ministers included:

  • Front-of-pack labelling
    Ministers agreed to the need for an easily understood, interpretive front-of-pack labeling model for packaged foods. The Federal Government’s Forum on Food Regulation will consult industry, public health and consumer stakeholders with aim to develop a system within a year.
  • Pregnancy warning labels on alcohol
    Ministers agreed that manufacturers of alcoholic beverages will be able to introduce appropriate pregnancy warning labels on a voluntary basis for a period of two years before regulating for this change.
  • Health claims on packaged foods and drinks
    Ministers considered a presentation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand on its work to develop a new standard for Nutrition, Health and Related Claims. FSANZ have now been asked to undertake broad consultation on the draft standard before a final standard is presented to Ministers.

Commonwealth Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King, who chaired today’s meeting said, “In considering its response to the recommendations, the Forum proposed actions over the next five years that endeavour to improve information on food labels to meet consumers’ needs, and minimize regulatory burden on industry and barriers to trade.

Other issues discussed at today’s meeting included:

Changed food safety arrangement for the retail and food service sectors
The Forum on Food Regulation has agreed to put in place a new food safety management Policy Guideline for the retail/food service sectors. The new guideline will provide a framework for development of a nationally consistent food safety management arrangement.

Review of the mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid
Ministers noted that mandatory fortification in Australia has been successfully implemented by industry. They agreed to assess the effectiveness of the mandatory fortification of bread with iodine. The findings of the data from the nutrition and biomedical components of the Australian Health Survey (the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey and the National Health Measures Survey), have been identified as necessary to inform the Review, however the full results from this Survey are not expected to be available until May 2013 and onwards into 2014.