FGC welcomes ministers' decisions on food labelling

Press Release 09/12/2011

The Ministerial Council on Food Regulation forNew ZealandandAustraliamet inMelbournetoday to consider its response to the Blewett Review on Food Labelling Policy and the Health Claims Standard.

“FGC is pleased by the tenor of Ministerial Council’s responses to the range of the recommendations made in the Blewett Food Labelling Review, said Katherine Rich, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council.

“We are particularly pleased to see that the traffic light labelling system proposed by the Blewett Review has been soundly rejected by the Ministerial Council.

“It makes sense that the wider issue of front of pack labelling be subject to a much broader discussion on needs, enhancements and evidence before there is any prospect of significant change creating unnecessary compliance costs.

“This is a sensible and measured approach to an issue that no jurisdiction around the world has yet cracked. Regulators need to tread carefully as resulting changes create high costs for the food industry and consequently for consumers in the form of higher food prices.

“The Ministerial Council has certainly set a tight timeframe for this work. The timeline laid out for officials to deliver a comprehensive report within six months and an agreed labelling system within one year, is extremely ambitious, particularly when further research is likely to be required.

NZFGC also welcomes decisions relating to labelling for new technologies.

“There is already a robust system of assessment and labelling for a range of technologies. While the provisions are seldom used, they already provide consumers with the information they might want when products require such labelling.

The Ministerial Council also indicated that after a two year voluntary period alcohol is to carry mandatory warnings about consumption by pregnant women.

“While there is little confidence that labelling can do anything to affect the choices of the women most at risk, our members will comply with all food and beverage laws adopted byNew Zealand. A number of our members have already committed to including such labelling in the last couple of years. The industry also appreciates the two year voluntary window within which to comply.

Ministers also announced that the Health Claims Standard would be the subject of another round of consultation.

“Health Claims have had the longest gestation of just about any standard in the Code, so another round of consultation, after the last fifteen years, has not come as a surprise. We welcome another chance to discuss a standard. After such a lengthy period of development, we would rather have an accurately drafted standard than rush something through for the sake of expediency, Mrs Rich said.