AUSTRALIA/NEWZEALAND – Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is amending the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code regarding the labelling of added sugars on nutritional information panels (NIP).
This follows the release of findings last year in its review of nutrition labelling for added sugars. The review was undertaken at the request of food ministers with the aim of ensuring food labels provide adequate contextual information about sugars to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of dietary guidelines.
In the review, FSANZ considered quantifying added sugars in the nutrition information panel (NIP), applying a pictorial about sugar to sugary beverages/sugar-sweetened beverages and changing the statement of ingredients to identify sugars-based ingredients, so as to meet their objective.
The ministers preferred option one and in the end, the review argued that while the process of labelling foods based on their added sugars would be complex, there were no technical reasons to not include these sugars on the NIP.
In accordance with the FSANZ Act, when proposing a change to the Code, FSANZ must make its own assessment based on the best available scientific evidence and having regard to a number of matters including consideration of costs and benefits, FSANZ objectives and other matters set out in subsection 18(2) of the FSANZ Act.
The issue of added sugar has been brewing for some time. It was mooted in the late 1990s when the then new ANZ Food Standards Code (FSC) was being developed. It was raised again in 2011 in the recommendations of the Blewett food labelling review.
More recently in 2017 in response to the growing concern about Australians’ health status, the Health Ministers’ Meeting, formerly the Forum on Food Regulation, considered the need for added sugar labelling on packaged foods to provide consumers with additional information to help them make informed food choices.
Two years later, Ministers requested FSANZ to review nutrition labelling for added sugars in response to a policy paper prepared by the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC). Ministers requested Food Standards Australia New Zealand to review three of the seven policy options for added sugars labelling:
More details are expected to follow early this year from FSANZ about the amendment to the Food Standards Code.
FSANZ’s report will be available on the FSANZ website in the coming month. Timelines for a Proposal which includes defining added sugars will be determined following the release of the report. The Proposal will include public consultation and consideration of costs and benefits as per the usual statutory process