Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Amber Light Given for Food Labels

By Ian Lowe

A review of food labelling is introducing a traffic-light warning system but left it voluntary for purveyors of junk food.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The long-awaited review of food labelling, chaired by former Commonwealth Health Minister Dr Neal Blewett, has been released. Labelling Logic is a relatively cautious report, with a heavy emphasis on voluntary change.While it recommends the formation of a Trans-Tasman Food Labelling Bureau with the resources to monitor and “assist industry to comply with labelling requirements”, Dr Alan Barclay, head of research at the Australian Diabetes Foundation, said it would be much better to have a comprehensive regulator covering both food and therapeutic goods “given the widespread abuse at the food–therapeutic goods interface”.

The report plumped for the traffic-light system of guidance to consumers, with green lights for healthy foods like fresh fruit and vegetables. Foods high in salt and sugar would carry a warning red light. We may not see a rapid outbreak of these warnings, however, since the report recommended that the system be voluntary in the first instance “except where general or high-level health claims are made”. That probably means that few products will carry the warning red light. Nobody pretends that junk foods have high level health benefits, so the system will remain voluntary. I suspect very few producers will want to warn consumers that their foods are unhealthy!

The move to the simple traffic-light scheme has been applauded by nutritionist Dr...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.