Friends one moment, but not the next? Food labelling spat between the AFGC and CHOICE

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 26th September 2011

Despite recently presenting a united voice for advocacy of a supermarket ombudsman in Australia, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and Australian consumer advocacy group CHOICE have disagreed publicly on food labelling.

The AFGC has accused CHOICE of publishing recipes on its website that fall short of health standards espoused by the Traffic Light Labelling system, which CHOICE has championed.

According to the AFGC, a number of recipes on CHOICE’s website are ‘unhealthy’ when measured using the consumer group’s own Traffic Light Labelling system, despite being promoted by CHOICE as “simple and nutritious”.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said, “Several recipes on the CHOICE website, which are aimed at families, receive red traffic lights for fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt using the traffic light smartphone app, endorsed by CHOICE.

“Recipes receiving at least two red signals for fat and saturated fat (per 100g) include scrambled eggs and German potato salad.  While recipes for banana pancakes and pistachio cake receive three red traffic lights (fat, saturated fat, sugar) and amber for sodium. After a campaign to ‘name and shame’ industry products last week for being ‘unhealthy’, CHOICE has now been left red-faced.

“These recipes are healthy options but don’t stack up against the traffic light criteria that CHOICE is strongly advocating for in Australia. This shows once again that traffic light labels do not give consumers useful information about making healthy choices. There’s no way that traffic lights make the process of choosing healthier foods any simpler for consumers,” Ms Carnell said.

The AFGC has been campaigning for an alternative labelling system known as the Daily Intake Guide (DIG). DIG front-of-pack thumbnails outline the amount of energy, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in a standard portion of the food and how that translates to average daily intake:

Representatives of the food industry maintain that the Traffic Light Labelling system is too simplistic and that making such a system mandatory will impose huge costs for food companies.