Australian Government rejects ‘Traffic Light’ labelling

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 30th November 2011

The Federal Government has announced today that it does not support the Traffic Light labelling system previously recommended by the Blewett Report. However, it does support the report’s recommendation on palm oil labelling in Australia.

The Federal Government’s position was released today, ahead of the 9 December meeting of food and health ministers comprising the Australian New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council.

Front-of-pack labelling

Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon said, “During consultation with stakeholders, we concluded that there is currently not enough evidence to demonstrate that any of form of front-of-pack labelling, including Traffic Light labelling and the Daily Intake Guide provides Australians with the nutritional information they need to make informed choices.”

However, the Federal Government does propose that work begin with consumer groups, public health groups and the food industry to develop a single front-of-pack labelling model that can provide consumers with better nutritional information.

Back-of-pack labelling

Where sugars, fats or vegetable oils are added as separate ingredients in a food, the Federal Government believes consumers should be able to look to the back of the packet to find out what specific kind of sugars, fats and oils are included, instead of the generic term.

The Government supports Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) being asked to consider how this might be done, with a view to consumers seeing the generic term appear on the back-of-packet, followed by a bracketed list (e.g., “added sugars (fructose, glucose syrup, honey)”, “added fats (vegetable fat, milk fat)” or “added vegetable oils (sunflower oil, palm oil)”).

Minister Roxon said, “The dangers of drinking while pregnant are now well established, and the Government proposes extending the industry’s early steps to inform women of these dangers so that pregnancy warning labels appear on all alcohol within two years.”

Standards for nutrition and health claims

The Federal Government said it is concerned that consumers can be confused by health claims made on foods that have a poor nutritional profile. To improve consumer confidence in claims such as ‘calcium for strong bones’ and ‘helps maintain a healthy heart’, the Government proposes that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) only allow foods that meet certain nutritional criteria to be labelled with health claims.

Pregnancy warning labels on alcohol

Already many alcohol producers are voluntarily including pregnancy warning labels on alcohol. Given the strong evidence about the risks of consuming alcohol while pregnant, the government supports mandating these labels within two years.

Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, together with New Zealand will consider a single agreed response to the Blewett report at a meeting of food ministers on 9 December 2011.

Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King MP said that, given the level of public interested, the Federal Government wanted to foreshadow the position the Commonwealth will take to the meeting.