The Guardian November 29, 2000


Show and tell

by Mati English

As a result of consumer pressure for more information on packaged food, it 
will be necessary to specify the percentages of the main or characterising
ingredients of food products on the label. At present the only requirement 
is to list ingredients in descending order of content. The new labels, to 
be phased in over the next two years, are an important step in providing 
more nutritional information for consumers.

Health Ministers from Australia and New Zealand also agreed to include 
information on sugars and saturated fats  ingredients which many people 
have to watch carefully.

Accurate and informative food labelling is a basic consumer right and an 
extremely important health issue. In this respect, it is interesting to 
know that the Federal Government and the Australian Food and Grocery 
Council were against the new food code.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council continues to claim that the new 
laws will mean an increase of two per cent in the price of food as the 
industry will have to spend up to $400 million in changing labels.

This argument doesn't fool consumers. As everyone knows, companies find it 
very easy add advertising material or special offers to the labels.

It will be worth watching to see if the multinational food companies raise 
their prices, using the new laws as an excuse. According to Federal 
Government estimates, the cost to the industry is $120-200 million. 

The Federal Government representative at the meeting supported the food 
industry's opposition to the new laws but they were outnumbered.

That does not mean that consumers can relax. In a concession to several big 
manufacturers  such as Unilever, National Foods Ltd, Arnott's, Mars 
Confectionery, Heinz Wattie's and Goodman Fielder Ltd the Health Ministers 
preserved minimum compositional standards for foods such as cream, ice-
cream, yogurt, chocolate, fruit juice drinks, peanut butter and jam.

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