The Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC), the advisory body responsible for co-ordinating policy advice for the Australia & New Zealand Ministerial Forum on food regulation has this month released a policy options paper seeking input on possible changes to the labelling of sugars on food and drinks sold in Australia and New Zealand. This information is to allow the FRSC to identify a preferred policy option and make a recommendation to the Forum.
The perceived problem the paper seeks to address is that information about sugar on existing food labels does not purportedly enable consumers to make informed choices.
The possible options for sugar labelling
Other than maintaining the status quo, the FRSC has identified six possible options for discussion:
Option 1: increased education: providing consumers with education on how to read and interpret current labelling information about sugars. This would not result in any change to current food labelling requirements; instead it would aim to reduce consumer confusion by increased awareness;
Option 2: changing statements and ingredients on food labels to more clearly identify sugars: the purpose would be to indicate in a clearer way which ingredients are added sugars, for example by:
- indicating sugars-based ingredients by a descriptor such as "sugars", followed by a bracketed list of individual sugars based ingredients in descending order of weight; or
- using an asterisk or bolding individual sugars-based ingredients;
Option 3: quantifying added sugars in Nutrition Information Panel (NIP): existing NIP requirements would be expanded to include added sugars as a mandatory requirement;
Option 4: advisory labels: an advisory label would be placed on foods that exceed a pre-determined threshold for added sugars;
Option 5: pictorial displays: the amount of sugars and/or added sugars in individual servings of food would be displayed by use of a pictorial representation. Examples given include: representing sugar content by use of pictures indicating the number of in teaspoons of table sugar or number of sugar cubes, or alternatively the use of graphs or pie charts;
Option 6: digital linking: food labels could signal the availability of further information about the food via an electronic or digital link, such as via a QR Code.
The paper also canvasses various ways to implement the chosen option, ranging from voluntary implementation through to codes of practice (either industry or government driven) and the possibility of a regulatory approach involving amendments to the FSANZ Code.
Making a submission and the next steps for sugar labelling
Submissions close on 19 September 2018; they will be used by the FRSC to identify a preferred option and implementation mechanism to be recommended to the Forum in late 2018.
All stakeholders including industry, public health and consumer organisations are invited to participate and make submissions. The FRSC has however indicated that it expects peak organisations to consult members on questions in the paper and provide a single response on behalf of their members.
If you have any questions about this consultation, please contact Clayton Utz.