Consumer submission on CSIRO Discussion Paper – Transforming Australian Food Systems

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The Queensland Consumers Association has made a submission on a CSIRO Discussion Paper -Transforming Australian Food Systems – which will inform the development of an Australian Food Systems Roadmap.

The submission says that:

  1. In addition to considering written submissions, additional consultation should be undertaken with consumer and public health organisations prior to the preparation of the final version of the Roadmap.

2. The draft Vision is unsatisfactory because it:

  • Does not mention food safety which is one of the primary objectives of food regulation and extremely important to consumers.
  • Only proposes that the system enable the achievement of objectives/outcomes. The system needs to do much more than that. For example, it is essential that the system also facilitates the achievement of the consumer access and consumption outcomes sought.
  • Does not recognise that food needs to be affordable.
  • The vision should be for An agile, productive and resilient food system that is carbon neutral, less wasteful, and that enables and facilitates equitable access to, and consumption of, safe, healthy and affordable foods.

3. In some Focus Areas there is excessive reliance on individual actions to achieve change and not enough recognition of the need for effective public policies and programs, including additional industry regulation, to achieve the Vision. For example, there is insufficient recognition of:

  • The limitations of relying on consumer self-regulation of food intake to achieve the dietary changes need to significantly reduce the incidence of diet-related chronic diseases and ill health.
  • The huge impacts on food consumption of supplier-induced demand.
  • The need to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive conduct, including food fraud.

4. In relation to the Focus Area: Enabling equitable access to healthy diets

  • The only suggested recommendation that mentions affordability refers to “making fresh produce more affordable”, which is too limiting and it should be widened to cover more food types.
  • To improve affordability there should be a recommendation that the provision by retailers of grocery unit pricing (pricing per standard unit of measure) should be improved and expanded.

5. In relation to the Focus Area: Improving environmental and economic resilience

  • This is far too industry focused and fails to recognise that consumers are part of the food system and the importance of, and need to increase, consumer resilience i.e. able to deal effectively with unexpected changes in their economic situation and in the availability, cost and affordability of food.
  • The definition of “food system resilience” should be changed to include consumer resilience and this should also be included in the 2050 Vision.

Ian Jarratt, Queensland Consumers Association