Price transparency and consumers’ right to food

Recently, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published an interview with Ian Jarratt from the Queensland Consumers Association on the relevance of retail food price transparency to the FAO’s Right to Food Program.

In the interview Ian says that food price transparency is extremely relevant to consumers’ right to food because it ensures that reliable information reaches all consumers, helping them to make informed choices, to budget, monitor and compare prices, and get the best value for money. It also increases accountability and competition in the supply chain, and can enable consumers to substantially reduce the amount spent on food or get more or different food for the same expenditure. It is particularly helpful for consumers on a tight budget, more vulnerable consumers or those who are unable to buy other essentials due to the amount they spend on food.

He notes that a range of measures can facilitate food price transparency, including requiring that retail selling prices are displayed, accurate and not misleading, and show the total final price the consumer will have to pay.

He emphasises that requiring the provision of effective unit pricing (pricing per unit of measure) is a very simple, low cost and extremely successful way to facilitate price transparency. This is because unit prices vary greatly and help consumers to compare many types of value, including between package sizes, brands, types of packaging, packaged and non-packaged items, products sold in different forms (such as fresh, frozen and canned), substitute/alternative products, and special offers and regular prices. Unit pricing also helps consumers to identify food price rises, and increases caused by reductions in package size (shrinkflation).

He calls on Governments, consumer organisations and retailers to give much greater priority to the provision of unit pricing that is easy for all consumers to notice, read, understand and use.

Prepared by CFA Executive Member Ian Jarratt, of Queensland Consumers Association. He can be reached at

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