Food industry failure on front-of-pack labelling

With Australia’s food and health ministers meeting tomorrow, CHOICE has released new research showing a clear majority of Australians support replacing the food industry’s front-of-pack labelling system with a new Health Star Rating scheme.                 

The food industry has been pushing to retain the flawed Daily Intake Guide scheme but CHOICE’s research also shows that 62% of Australians have either never heard of this scheme, or rarely use it to choose food products.

“Australians are saying very clearly that they want better food labels, and we call on the nation’s food and health ministers to hear this message when they meet tomorrow,” says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.

“Despite the industry pushing its flawed Daily Intake Guide labels onto thousands of food products over the last seven years, it is failing to give shoppers the information they want.”

“Along with CHOICE and public health groups, the majority of Australians support replacing the industry scheme with new Health Star Ratings, even though many would have only seen it for the first time through this research,” Mr Kirkland says.

The key findings from CHOICE’s research are:

  • 62% of Australians have either never heard of the food industry’s Daily Intake Guide, or at best rarely use it to choose food products. This is despite the system being in the market for seven years and according to industry, currently featuring on 7200 products on supermarket shelves.
  • When shown an image of the proposed Health Star Rating scheme, 62% of respondents said they would support the new scheme replacing the existing Daily Intake Guide.
  • When asked who they would most trust to develop a nutrition labelling, 60% of respondents nominated public health and consumer groups, compared to only 16% nominating industry.

“CHOICE believes consumers should be free to buy and eat whatever they want – but if they are looking for a healthy option, this should be easy to find through clear, accurate and trustworthy information in an easy-to-understand format, on the front of packs,” Mr Kirkland says.

“On the question of who to trust, it is clear that consumers are overwhelmingly in favour of a labelling system developed by consumer and public health groups over industry.”

The new Health Star Rating System scheme would provide a rating of up to 5 stars on the front of food products, along with critical details about salt, sugar and saturated fat, allowing consumers to make quick comparisons between products.

The Daily Intake Guide was introduced by the Australian Food and Grocery Council in 2006. It has been heavily criticised by consumer and public health groups which see it as complex and misleading.