Corporate wealth wins over consumer health: labelling review

30 Nov 2011

The Federal Government has bowed to food industry pressure by rejecting traffic light labels in its response to the Labelling Logic review today, according to Jane Martin, senior policy adviser for the Obesity Policy Coalition.  

"The Federal Government's response puts corporate wealth before consumer health," Ms Martin said.

"The Federal Government has ignored the evidence that traffic light labels empower consumers to make healthier choices. After reviewing the evidence and taking submissions, the government's own expert panel on food labelling recommended a traffic light labelling scheme as did the majority of Australian public health organisations.

"A recent Cancer Council survey found that 87% of Australian consumers are in favour of the government requiring traffic light labels on the front of food packaging. 88% said they would use traffic light labels when they were making food purchases," said Ms Martin.

Research has shown that traffic light labels are better understood by consumers including those with poor literacy and numeracy skills to assess and compare the nutritional value of foods and make healthier choices.

"It begs the question: who is the government listening to, when it can ignore the evidence on the effectiveness on traffic light labels? At the same time there is no evidence to suggest there is any other scheme that is superior. In fact, the review panel found that the industry-backed percent daily intake scheme to be ‘challenging for consumers to use the context of their daily diets'.

"When obesity and chronic disease from poor diet are at record levels, it is critical that consumers are empowered to make healthier choices such as in the supermarket when they are shopping or at fast food outlets," said Ms Martin.

The OPC urged the states and territories not to follow the lead of the Federal Government but to back traffic light labels when the Ministerial Council meets on 9 December this year.