Latest in an occasional series of articles about food issues of interest to consumers collated by Consumers SA Executive Committee member Elaine Attwood.

Added sugar labelling: Australian industry “fully supportive” but appeals for consistency.

The food and beverage industry in Australia has expressed “full support” for the addition of information about the added sugar onto food and beverage labels – but want this to be consistent with Health Star Rating (HSR five-year review.) system to avoid negatively affecting manufacturing costs.

“Manufacturers have experienced a number of label changes in recent years and this increases their costs and, in many instances, increases the cost to the consumer. 

The Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (Forum) has been considering the implementation of such labelling since as far back as 2017. As part of this latest session earlier this year, the Forum Ministers ordered Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to review such labelling options based on the proposed Policy Paper: labelling of sugars on packaged food and drinks.

The option to quantify sugars in the nutrition information panel (NIP) (option 4 in the policy paper), best met the desired outcome. Furthermore the Forum agreed that a pictorial approach applied to sugary beverages/sugar – sweetened beverages (option six) warrants further consideration, along with other options, pending the response to the HSR five-year review.” 

Such a ‘pictorial approach would likely mean pictures of the number of teaspoons of sugar inside the product, which could result in a glaring image for some items. An example would be Coca-Cola which could see some 16 teaspoons of sugar printed on each can of the regular variant.

According to the Policy Paper, the food industry is against this option because it would mean that the label would place an unfair “significant emphasis” on sugars versus other nutrients such as sodium or saturated fat, and that this could result in the “removal of more holistic information from the food label, such as the HSR.’

Six options were proposed in all. Apart from the pictorial approach, one option was to retain the status quo, option two focused on consumer education, which was supported by the food industry but not by any of the other stakeholders ‘as it would not provide any new information for consumers.’  Industry opposed both option three “to overtly identify sugar – based ingredients) and option five (an added advisory label for foods high in added sugars) for fear that this would overemphasise sugars over other “negative ingredients”. The last option was to provide digital linking to off label web – based information, which was supported by industry but opposed by all other stakeholders for being too consumer – dependent.

A decision is yet to be made.


Author:  Pearly Neo

Source:  © 2019- William Reed Business Media Ltd.

Consumer attitudes to plastic “bordering on the militant” but is food waste forgotten?

An increased hard–line towards plastic among the public means food businesses are struggling to get the message across to customers that plastic plays an important role in preventing food waste.

Attitude to plastic among consumers is “bordering on militant”, according to Ocado’s head of corporate responsibility and corporate affairs Suzanne Westlake - a situation that risks curbing innovation among food business looking for ways of tackling the problem of food waste.

She told an audience at the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum’s seminar in London yesterday (18-Jul-2019) - which was discussing food waste reduction and initiatives for reducing plastic packaging waste – that customers were now so anti – plastic that they were not willing to consider the role that plastic can play in lengthening shelf – life and preventing food waste. The online supermarket, she explained, had been trying to educate customers on its ambitions to minimise food waste and help cut G HC emissions. but she was “disturbed” that the public’s perception has “swung too far” against the use of plastic for any purpose.

Martin Leeming, CEO of TrakRap, a company that makes low–carbon packaging, agreed that the message that food waste has a bigger carbon footprint than plastic was being lost on consumers – partly down to the impact of programs such as Blue Planet. “Obviously the emotive side of plastic out in the environment killing turtles is the big motivator for people to have such a passion about changing things, but global warming will probably account for a lot more turtles dying than the use of plastic.”

Dr Sally Russell, associate Professor: Business, Organisations and Sustainability, at the University of Leeds, noted that the difficult trade-off that both food businesses and consumers face about the balance to strike between using plastics to preserve food to reduce waste, and cut Green house carbon (GHC) emissions. “This tension between the two is really quite complex to navigate as a consumer. The message needs to be absolutely explicit so consumers can make the choice that is right for them.”

 Waste management is another area of confusion for food businesses, the discussion heard. Mark Richmond, technical director at waste management firm WRM, said that a proliferation of waste management approaches was confusing for everyone in the supply chain. This proliferation meant it was difficult for product designers, he said, to resolve the question of “how do I design my product so that at the end of its life it can be recycled and are not going to end up with plastic contamination on land?”  

 Michael Lenaghan, an environmental policy adviser, at Zero Waste Scotland, added that recycling should be the last resort. “In a circular economy, recycling is the least best option,” he said. “So can we please start talking about things much further up the hierarchy – how does the system need to change so that packaging is no longer needed and the packaging we do use is reusable, refillable and ultimately only recycled at the end of a very long lifetime.”


Author: Oliver Morrison

Credit:  © 2019 - William Reed Business Media Ltd

Inconvenient truth: Aussies spending 32% of food budgets on takeaways

Food manufacturers have been urged to play their part in helping Australian’s improve their diets and tackle the nation’s obesity epidemic, in the wake of a report that found Aussie’s blow a third of the food budget on takeaways. According to a survey by insurers NobelOak, adults in Australia spend a third (32%) of their weekly food budget on fast food, and mostly insufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables as well as being unaware of the link between unhealthy diets and health conditions. By contrast, only 25% of Australians in 1988 spent the food budget eating out.

The survey revealed when it came to dietary choices, most Australians favoured convenience. 63% of respondents were most likely to prioritise food that was easy to purchase, and quick to cook (59%).

The survey also found that 55% of respondents admitted to eating less than one portion of fruit or vegetables per day. Only 17% of Australians said they managed to eat five portions a day. This finding echoed the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s nutrition across the life stages report of 2018, which revealed that Australians fall well short of the daily recommended vegetable intake.

The survey also revealed 59% of respondents were unaware that a long – term unhealthy diet was scientifically linked to depression, types of cancer (57%), weaker immune system (54%), kidney disease (52%) and early death (51%).  Obesity was the most widely recognised health issue linked to an unhealthy diet, where only one in six respondents (16%) were unaware of the link. 

Scoular said food manufacturers could also play a part by making healthy foods more affordable, “Price is a major barrier (or excuse) for many. We need to look at maximising our use of seasonal, fresh produce to ensure manufacturers are still making a reasonable profit margin, yet also keeping it affordable for consumers.”

According to the National Health Survey in 2018, more than two thirds of Australians are now overweight or obese.

This article goes on to refer to the Australian health ministers request for FZANZ  to consider making it compulsory for packaged foods and drinks to carry labels quantifying the amount of added sugar they contain.


Author: Guan Yu Lim

Source: © 2019 William Reed Business Media Ltd

Note:  Full transcript of all articles may be found via the reference.

AuthorRay Dennis