10 Dec 2011

Universal nutrition labels planned for food packaging

1:35 pm on 10 December 2011

Shoppers could soon be provided with nutrition labels on the front of food and drink packaging in New Zealand and Australia.

The Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation, which covers both countries, has agreed that a universal front-of-package labelling system is needed.

It has decided to develop such a system within the next year.

An alternative traffic-light labelling system, which would have denoted the nutritional value of food using green, amber or red illustrations, was rejected.

The forum has also decided that alcohol should carry labels warning pregnant women about its dangers.

Companies will have two years to introduce the labels voluntarily, before they become mandatory.

Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich says any new labelling system needs to be thought through properly.

"For us, one of the more practical issues is the cost of changing tens of thousands of products that are currently already in the marketplace," she says.

Alcohol Advisory Council early intervention manager Sue Paton says women need to know the risks of drinking during pregnancy but a system which allows companies to decide how to do so is flawed.

She says the risk is that the messages are ambigious and they need to be clear and consistent.