The Future of Food Labelling
Recommendations for Change - the Blewett Review
The final report of the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy - Labelling Logic - was released on 28 January 2011. Known as the Blewett Review, after its Chair Dr Neal Blewett, the report made a total of 61 recommendations addressing issues around policy, public health and food safety, presentation, and compliance and enforcement.
The food label was identified as a key focus area by the review panel, due to its role as a primary communication channel between suppliers and consumers.
Recommendations for future food labelling law and policy were made by balancing:
- consumer need for information;
- industry need for marketing flexibility and minimal regulatory burden; and
- government objectives in the area of individual and public health.
What are the Recommendations?
Summaries of some of the relevant recommendations from the Labelling Logic Report can be found below.
Food Labelling Regulation
A number of the report's recommendations seek to create a regulatory framework for food labelling, alongside voluntary actions, which will be industry led.
The report recommends:
Traffic Light Labelling
The report's recommendations for the introduction of a multiple traffic lights front-of-pack labelling system (Recommendation 50) has generated a lot of interest from media, industry bodies and consumers.
The report recommends the voluntary introduction of the traffic light labelling system in the first instance, with the exception of food products where general or high level health or nutrition claims are made. In these cases, traffic light labelling will be mandatory.
Nutrition Information Panels
The report addressed wider issues surrounding nutrition labelling, including the level of detail required on Nutrition Information Panels. The report recommends that disclosure of specific added sugars, added fats, added vegetable oils, and total and naturally occurring fibre, should be mandatory on Nutrition Information Panels (Recommendations 12 and 14).
For more information on how to read a Nutrition Information Panel, click here.
Food labelling in chain food restaurants
Food labelling on menus and menu boards were addressed in the report, and the following recommendations were made:
- declaration of energy content of standardised food should be mandatory on menus and menu boards in chain food service outlets, and on vending machines (Recommendation 18)
- chain food service outlets should be encouraged to display the multiple traffic lights labelling system on menus/menu boards. This should be a mandatory requirement where general or high level health claims are made on food content (Recommendation 54)
The South Australian government has consulted on this issue with a view to introducing changes. The Parents' Jury wrote a submission based on members' views. In 2013 research was released suggesting traffic light labelling on fast food leads to consumers making healthier choices. This is being used to lobby the Victorian government to improve food labelling.
The Gillard Government response
In December 2011, the Federal Government announced it would not support traffic light labelling on food. Instead, it proposed developing front-of-pack labelling with easy to understand nutritional information.
Its Forum on Food Regulation will consult with representatives from health organisations, industry and consumer groups to develop the new system.
Once the design and content of the labelling is decided, companies may be given up to two years to implement the changes.
The Parents' Jury will continue to keep you informed of the progress of this issue.
What does The Parents' Jury want to see?
In 2011, we surveyed members to find out what you thought about multiple traffic light labelling and if it should be introduced on a mandatory basis. We received 250 responses, with over 90 per cent of you stating your support for its mandatory introduction. Over 91 per cent of respondents want to see this labelling across all packaged food products and 90 per cent believing it should be extended to cover all items on the menu boards in fast food outlets.
Many of you also provided comments. Here are some of your thoughts, which have featured in our official response to the Review.
“I hope our government will listen to consumers rather than the food industry. I can't understand why food industry is so resistant to traffic light labelling when they happily put %RDI's which is complex and time consuming compared to traffic light labelling.”
“Much easier to understand and helps (us) choose healthy foods, than trying to work out DI % which means absolutely nothing to most people.”
“It’s such a great concept! A simple way that we can teach our kids to consider what they are eating, and hopefully develop a healthier generation of teens and adults. It has wins all round: food production companies would hopefully take more personal responsibility. There would be a greater awareness for all families, no matter their level of education, and we could set our kids up to be looking after their health by watching what they eat. We will be doing future generations a service by educating them about how food affects their health.”