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Don't bind Food Manufacturing Industry in Red Tape

Support the food manufacturing industry, don’t bind it in red tape

Proposed changes to food labeling being considered at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra today will add significant pressure to Australia’s already at-risk manufacturing industry and will cost jobs, and do little to improve consumer understanding on how to eat.

Simon Talbot, Director of Corporate Affairs for Mondelez International, the company behind household brands Vegemite, Cadbury, Oreo and Philadelphia, commented on the proposed food labeling changes, and said ill-designed systems that confuse consumers’ understanding of good nutritional habits are unhelpful both for consumers and food manufacturers.

“We have been working for seven years on the Daily Intake Guide and industry has invested more than $70 million into nutritional labeling systems to help provide consumers with clear nutritional information.

“Proposed new food labeling requirements reviewed by COAG are ill-founded, unscientific and unproven. The new labeling, where the rating of ingredients is based on a 100 gram serve will be confusing for the consumer.

“New Zealanders eat a five gram scrape of Vegemite – it’s not spooned out of the jar, and we certainly don’t eat golf-ball sized servings, yet the proposed scheme is based just on that.

“Our greatest concern is that this scheme is applying a one size fits all, whereas we all know we consume different foods in different way.

“The proposed labeling system is a disservice to Australia’s largest manufacturing sector. We would ask COAG to consider the merit of undertaking a cost impact assessment for this new labeling.

“We recognise that industry has an important role to help consumers understand better what they’re eating. This is why all our products have clearly marked nutritional panels on the back, plus an additional daily intake guide on the front of pack.

“But now, with the proposed labeling scheme, our nation’s favourite spread Vegemite could feature a star rating based on a 100g serve.*

Mr Talbot explained that food processing was Australia’s largest manufacturing sector however it is a sector under significant pressure and this additional red tape creates further uncertainty.

“The star system will cost our business over $20 million in re-labeling and lost productivity, risking manufacturing jobs, compounded by further ongoing costs.

“At a time when manufacturing systems need to be simplified and streamlined to remain competitive, we’re being asked to add complexity back into our supply chain.

“A significant amount of food is consumed out of people’s homes, and purchased beyond the four walls of a supermarket, so let’s look at a more holistic approach and educate consumers about their food intake, so they can make good choices throughout their diets.

“Rather than spending money on re-labeling our products which will de-stabilise our food manufacturing sector further, we would encourage industry and governments to invest in a fact-based, learning and behavioural change program so New Zealanders can make well informed decisions on all the food they eat.

*The star rating quantifies the nutritional value of the food product with five stars being the best food option and one star being the least preferred.

ENDS

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