Controversial Food Labelling to Combat Obesity

Controversial Food Labelling to Combat Obesity
June 19, 2013

Obesity is at epidemic levels in Australia, and the state and federal health ministers are set to approve a new food nutrition value labelling system to try and get it under control.

The new front-of-pack star rating was one of the main recommendations in the 2011 Blewett Review paper commissioned by the federal government. But the food industry is trying to delay this action. They are keen to water down the recommendation and labelling inclusions. It will also be the government and not the food industry, which dictates what is healthy food and what is not.

Star Rating System

Though it is not yet set in stone as to how the system will look and what inclusions may be on the packaging the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Shayne Neumann said the star rating is underpinned by a modified Nutrient Profiling Scoring System. “In short, the more stars, the healthier the food. “In addition, nutrient information will be provided for saturated fat, sugars and sodium and one optional positive nutrient information (eg. calcium) relevant to the particular food; along with an ‘energy’ icon, with the unit of measure in kilojoules,” Mr Neumann said.

Food Industry System

The food industry has already been using it’s own system of labelling using suing the daily intake (%DI) scheme. This was a voluntary move but it doesn’t satisfy the requirements set out in the Blewett Review. It has also been criticised as being too confusing for the normal shopper to use for making informed choices regarding their dietary habits.

A Win for Consumers

The new system will be familiar to consumers, as it will work in much the same was as the star rating system, indicating energy consumption, on electrical goods. The front-of-pack positioning in plain sight will be clear to the customer as to which product will be the healthiest choice for them. In the long run, it will be the consumer who is responsible for buying the product that will make a difference to their specific dietary health situation. We all have a mix of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ food but current labelling can be confusing and unclear as to how and why certain products are deemed healthy choices.

A Win for Government

If this scheme is approved and administered correctly there is the potential of huge savings in the costs for diet related diseases and illnesses and reduce obesity. To make this happen the government must stand strong in the implementation of this recommendation. There must not be the allowance to make technical changes to the way the star rating is calculated to let the food industry present their products in a more favourable way. In the end, it is all about user choices.