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Food Labelling Deadline Only Four Months Away

Food Labelling Deadline Only Four Months Away

Food manufacturers who have not finalised food labelling changes have just four months to do so, Parliamentary Secretary to the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing, Trish Worth, warned today.

Ms Worth said the new labelling changes must appear on packaged foods made on or after 20 December 2002.

It is estimated that 320 to 460 lives could be saved each year in Australia and New Zealand with the introduction of mandatory nutrition labelling.

Ms Worth said that while most food businesses have indicated they have made the necessary changes to their food labelling, a few businesses will have to work hard to meet the 20 December deadline.

' I congratulate the vast majority of food businesses, large and small, that have already made these labelling changes,' Ms Worth said.

' However, preliminary research on labelling issues by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ - formerly ANZFA) shows that a number of small to medium food businesses would not make the required labelling changes by December 20. This is despite the two-year implementation period given to food businesses to make these important changes.

' These labelling changes are not cosmetic. They have major public health implications. Diet related risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity (in both adults and children) and Type 2 diabetes, account for 13 per cent of Australia and New Zealand' s burden of disease. This costs the health system between $32 million and $42 million each year - with much more in terms of personal costs for people suffering diet-related disease.

' Experience in the United States shows that, when mandatory nutrition labelling was introduced, a significant proportion of consumers began to make healthier food choices.

' I strongly urge those remaining food businesses that are not ready to seek advice from FSANZ as soon as possible and make the changes. This is also a timely opportunity for professional and food industry organisations to remind their members of the need to make the labelling changes.'

The new labels must include, where appropriate, nutrition information and the percentage of the characterising ingredient (such as the percentage of strawberries in strawberry yoghurt), new date markings and full disclosure of major allergens.

Ms Worth said Ministers at the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council meeting in May agreed that the labelling deadline would not be extended. However, Ministers did agree to allow food products without the labelling changes made before 20 December 2002 to remain on the supermarket shelves until used up. This period must be for no longer than 12 months for most products and 24 months for long life products.

' The changes have been well publicised and a wide range of material to assist industry has been made available by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) including an easy-to-use nutrition panel calculator on their web site and a toll-free advice line,' Ms Worth said.

' Previous FSANZ research shows that consumers value the new information available on labels and I am sure that they will use it to make healthy and informed food choices.'

Information about the labelling changes can be obtained from the FSANZ website www.foodstandards.gov.au or by calling 1300 652 166 or emailing advice@foodstandards.gov.au .


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