CHOICE argues on serving size findings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 30th November 2011

Differences in recommended serving sizes on like-for-like Australian food products are making it “near impossible” for shoppers to compare the nutritional content of the products, according to new research by Sydney-based medical research body, The George Institute.

The George Institute’s study contained in its ‘Examination of serving sizes of selected food products in Australia’ report, published today, was commissioned by Australian consumer advocacy group CHOICE.

The George Institute’s research looked at the serving sizes of 1,130 products across six categories: snack foods, breakfast cereals, cereal and nut bars, ready meals, soups and yoghurts.

The report found that serving sizes for fruit yoghurts varied from 50g to 500g, muesli from 25g to 80g, potato chips from 19g to 50g and frozen meals from 115g to 450g.

CHOICE spokesperson, Ingrid Just commented that the “bewildering” range of serving sizes was making it difficult for consumers to make healthier food choices. However, CHOICE is not saying that serving sizes need to be standardized.

CHOICE’s Traffic Light Labelling campaign

CHOICE is claiming these new research findings support its ongoing campaign for the Australian Government to introduce mandatory Traffic Light Labelling to food packaging in Australia.

CHOICE’s Ms Just said the report shows that the alternative Percentage Daily Intake front-of-pack labelling system preferred by mainstream food manufacturers and advocated by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) is unsatisfactory because it is based on the inconsistent serving sizes.

She said, “Traffic Light Labelling is based on a 100g or 100ml standard. This gives consumers at-a-glance nutritional information based on consistent size comparisons, rather than the Percentage Daily Intake system which sees serving sizes set at the whim of manufacturers.”

In 2009, Australian and New Zealand governments set in motion a comprehensive review of food labelling law and policy.  Former Australian Health Minister Dr Neal Blewett headed the Review Panel.

D-Day Decision Imminent

Officials from the New Zealand Government, and Australian Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, are developing responses to the recommendations in Dr Blewett’s report. The Australian New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council is due to reach a consensus decision on responses to the report’s recommendations at its meeting on 9 December 2011.

The Federal Government has just today announced its own stance on various recommendations of the Blewett report.