FOOD LABELLING REVIEW
DETAILS FOR PUBLICATION
I have read and understood (Personal details deleted) submission and am in
full agreement with all the points made therein. Rather than restate these
same ideas in different words, I wish to put forward her submission on my
behalf. Herein follows the submission.
50% of Australians will get cancer and this number continues to shows
an increasing trend
60% of our population is obese or overweight
Australians are dying of lifestyle induced diseases, many of which can
be traced back to our eating patterns.
Australian’s might have a longer average lifespan but we are getting sicker
and sicker and we are suffering the effects of ill health earlier in life. This is
largely due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyle and the quality of the food
that we are consuming. Not only does this impose a huge burden on our
medical system but it also detracts from our quality of life.
Every single thing that goes into our mouth or is applied on our skin has the
potential to enter our bloodstream and affect our health either positively or
negatively. Unfortunately our food supply has been allowed to deteriorate to
the point where most of the products in our supermarkets are having a
negative affect on our health. It is no surprise that so many Australians are
sick with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, hormonal disorders and a
myriad of other ails.
If toxic additives and questionable farming practices and production processes
cannnot be banned or more tightly regulated, at the very least we have the
right to know what we is contained in our food, cosmetics and toiletries so that
we can make informed choices.
Ideally there would be a massive overhaul of the entire food industry. We
have moved so far away from food as the way nature provides it, that you
have to wonder whether it still qualifies as food. Certainly it is edible. But is it
Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to this Review of Food Labeling
Law and Policy. I call on you to protect public health and consumer choice by
introducing and strictly enforcing legislation that enables us to make better
choices. I hope that you will exercise your common sense and good
judgement and do what is right for the people of this country as well as the
people you love and your own self.
Please consider the following in your review.
LABELING IS THE ONLY BASIS FOR INFORMED CONSUMER CHOICE
Food has the potential to harm or heal. Until it can be proven beyond
reasonable doubt that pesticides, genetic modification and nano technology is
100% safe then we should have the right to make an informed choice.
Labeling is our only basis for informed choice and current laws make
this impossible. We have the right to knowledge about the products we are
supporting when we exercise our purchasing power. This requires us to have
easy access to adequate information.
CURRENT LAWS FOR GENETIC MODIFICATION ARE SEVERELY
FLAWED & MISLEADING
The European Union has set an excellent example by requiring the full
labeling of all food ingredients produced by a process involving genetic
modification. Identification of genetic modification should extend to
processed oils, refined sugars and starches, enzymes, additives, as well
as fresh produce, livestock products and foods containing GM fed
animal products such as dairy. GM soybean, corn, canola and cottonseed
are engineered to make their own insect toxins to repel pests or engineered to
withstand heavy and frequent spraying with herbicides like Roundup. These
potent toxins may end up in these foods which are widespread in our
supermarkets. They also end up in animal feed. Either way, they are
unlabeled, are potentially dangerous and have been found to provoke severe
allergic reactions, particularly in children. Consumers want to know, and also
have a right to know, whether genetic engineering has been used anywhere
within the production process - from the feedstock used through to genetic
modification of the ingredients themselves. Anything that has been
genetically modified or derived from a genetically modified crop should be
Under the current laws:
- Only those foods with “detectable” levels of genetically modified proteins or
DNA need to be labelled. This presents a problem in highly refined products
were GM proteins become undetectable even though there is increasing
evidence that these GM components remain in the final product.
- Food from animals fed GM feedstock are not labeled as GM
- GM enzymes and additives are not labeled.
Since most GM ingredients enter our foods supply in the above
mentioned ways, most remain unlabeled and appear to the consumer to
be GM free. This is very misleading.
Please put an end to the deception that is allowable under the current
regulations. All foods and personal use products including fresh
produce, animal products and pet foods should be properly labeled if
GM technology has been used.
Much uncertainty remains as to the safety of genetic modification. We
still do not know all the short and long term effects of consuming GM
ingredients and there is increasing evidence that these products are
“The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has warned that the
public should avoid genetically modified (GM) foods, stating, "There is more
than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects.
There is causation”. A large number of studies and incidents have
implicated GM foods in a wide variety of health problems, including
accelerated aging, immune dysfunction, insulin disorders, organ damage and
reproductive disruption." - Natural News, February 25, 2010 by David
MANDATORY LABELING FOR ALL FOOD, FOOD PACKAGING
INGREDIENTS AND COSMETIC INGREDIENTS PRODUCING USING
Anything produced using nanotechnology or manufactured in nanoparticle
form should be labelled. There is currently no requirement for this under
preexisting laws. Like genetic modification, this technology is relatively new
and untested. The long term implications remain unknown. We should err on
the side of caution and allow consumers to make informed choices.
STANDARDISED LABELS COVERING SET CRITERIA AND DESIGNED
FOR EASE OF USE
All labels should be printed with black lettering on a white background. With
an ageing population, many consumers find it difficult to read some food
labels, especially when they are printed on a dark or coloured background.
Use by dates and country of origin can also be hard to locate. This
information should all be contained on the food label. All labels should follow
a preset format so that there is consistency across all brands and products.
Use of icons or diagrammatic representations would also assist those who are
visually impaired. The nutrition panel could incorporate a graph to visually
depict the macronutrient breakdown. Poorly designed labels do more to
confuse than inform and this is why a standard format would work well.
Chemical additives should be identified by name and number. example:
Monosodium Glutamate (621)
SUSTAINABILITY, ETHICS AND PUBLIC CONSCIENCE
It should be possible to determine at a glance whether the product meets our
personal requirements for safety and ethics. Standardised labels covering
certain criteria would enable this. Consumers are increasingly concerned
about nutrition, health, sustainability, animal welfare and environmental impact
and it is anticipated that demand for this kind of information will only increase
further. It would be worthwhile exploring issues relating to sustainability
labeling and observing what is being done overseas by those corporations
who are already setting the precedent. Free range eggs is a good example of
a product where consumers think they are doing the right thing but little do
they know that they are supporting unethical farmers who do not adequately
care for the safety and wellbeing of their hens. Similarly, dolphin friendly
tuna may not be friendly to other marine life.
Ingredients should be identified with specificity. Palm oil should be
identified as palm oil and not vegetable oil or sodium laureth sulfate. Many
people are trying to avoid products containing palm oil because of the
destruction to the orang utan habitat and threat to their population but
this is impossible with vague descriptors. Similarly, products
containing rennet should be labeled as either “animal rennet” or “non
animal rennet” so that vegetarians and vegans can select products with
People are becoming increasingly concerned about the welfare of animals
that are used to make food. The American Human Association (AHA) has
developed a “Human Certification Program” which sets guidelines for animal
husbandry standards. We have a similar certification program for eggs, with
the RSPCA giving their “paws” stamp of approval to particular products.
Perhaps we can learn from the AHA’s American Humane Certified Program
(AHC) or expand the “paws” program to other products like meats, milk and
other dairy. The AHC program is voluntary and the use of growth hormones,
antibiotics and other artificial technique to boost production are prohibited. It
is designed to find a balance between practicality and profitability so that both
animals and the farmers can benefit.
FLUORIDE IN FOOD AND PERSONAL USE PRODUCTS
Many food and personal use products contain water. The European Court of
Justice last year declared that fluoridated water be treated as medicine and
disallowed its use in the preparation of foods. In Australia, there is presently
no way of knowing whether the water in our products has been treated to
remove chemicals and other contaminants. Labeling laws should be
tightened to incorporate disclosure on the source of water, especially in
products like milk where water makes up a large component of the
ingredients. Water could be labelled using the following format: contains
water (tap/mains), water (distilled), water (reverse osmosis), water
(deionised). We are already being medicated with fluoride through our
public water supply. We should have the right to know if we are also
being medicated through our food.
MSG AND FREED GLUTAMATES ARE DANGEROUSLY AND
DECEPTIVELY DISGUISED UNDER A LOOPHOLE IN CURRENT
There is growing concern and awareness of the dangers of excitotoxins such
as monosodium glutamate and aspartame. There is increasing evidence that
these ingredients affect the central nervous system and contribute to obesity,
dementia, food addictions and other health problems . At present, MSG is
labelled under a myriad of names including yeast extract, hydrolysed
wheat/soy/protein, natural flavour, vegetable protein extract, to name just a
few. Most consumers are unaware of this and innocently pick up foods like
stock and soups that are boldly labelled as “MSG free” or “No added MSG”.
Although MSG may not have been directly added as additive number 621
because this is off putting to consumers, it is in there in another way - as a
freed glutamate or hydrolysed protein which for all intents and purposes is still
MSG. Using harsh processing to free up the glutamate from a protein such as
vegetable, soy or wheat has the same affect as adding MSG directly and this
is a convenient work around solution for food manufacturers. Anything that
contains MSG or creates MSG during processing should be labelled
accordingly. For example: Hydrolyzed soy protein (MSG), yeast extract
(MSG), natural flavours (MSG). Alternatively the word Glutamate could be
used eg Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (Free Glutamate), Calcium caseinate
(Free Glutamate), Gelatin (Free Glutamate), Malt extract (Free Glutamate)
BETTER LABELING OF ANIMAL PRODUCTS
There is a need for better labeling on meats, especially those prepacked in
supermarkets. Some meats have nutrition panels and some don’t. As
consumers we also have a right to know more about how the animals are
reared, whether they are grain, grass or corn fed. We need to know whether
these animals have been reared on a diet of Genetically modified food. We
need to know whether fish is farmed or ocean caught or river caught.
THE ROLE FOR GOVERNMENT AND COSTS OF INCREASED
Concern about costs of complying with a new regulatory standard and
enforcing this standard are not sufficient reasons to reject these
proposals. At the end of the day, our most precious asset is at stake - our
health. Cost should not be a reason for continuing on with the current regime
which is severely lacking and putting our health at risk. In reality, full labeling
does not impose unreasonable burdens on the Australian food industry and
certain measures could be introduced to reduce the costs of implementing a
new regulatory standard such as uniform requirements between states.
Increased production costs are nearly always passed onto consumers anyway
and it is my belief that most consumers would be willing to pay a fraction more
for food that was satisfactorily labeled. Ideally the federal government would
fund part of the costs of regulation as part of it’s health reform package since
these laws will have an impact on public health.
The Commonwealth has funded the Gene and Nano Technology and
Information Services (GNITS) and National Enabling Technologies Strategy
(NETS) information programs and yet our labeling laws do not require the
disclosure of these potentially hazardous technologies. If taxpayer funds are
being used to disseminate information then it is only fair that funds also be
used to disclose their presence in foods and personal use products.
Everyone should be entitled to make fully informed choices about what they
eat and what they dish up to family, friends, pets and clientele.
If it proved too costly to implement a new set of Australian food standards
then we would do well to adopt the standards set by the European Union.
Since around 80% of our food industry is already foreign owned and many are
already complying with the EU rules, it would not impose unreasonable
burdens for corporations to comply with the European system here too.
It is vital that the Government impose comprehensive regulation for the
public’s safety and right to information. Food labels need to be factual,
comprehensive and accurate. This is especially important for novel processes
such as genetic manipulation and nano materials. Ideally these foods would
not be allowed at all, but at the very minimum there should be clear labeling
especially when there is no history of safe use. Food labeling is one area
where self regulation should not be allowed.
LEARNING FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU)
The EU system is presently the best in the world with it’s more conservative
approach to new technology and potentially unsafe ingredients. Surely our
food supply is one area where it makes sense to exercise precaution by
following the EU’s lead. The EU has clear labelling of nano materials, and
additives that are not proven safe. Irradiated foods are also clearly labelled.
Europe has also prohibited the use of hormones and non therapeutic
antibodies in livestock production and is phasing out many synthetic
herbicides and pesticides. They have also reduced the risk of a “Mad Cow”
development by disallowing animal waste to be recycled into animal feed.
Although the European system is not perfect (and they could improve it by
furthering the regulations on locally produced GM animal feed) it is by far the
best in the world and we would do well to follow their lead or further improve
DANGERS OF IMPORTED FOODS
In some countries there are hazards that do not currently exist here in
Australia. One such example is meat imported from countries where Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) exists in cattle and other animals. Ideally
this meat would not be allowed into Australia since the Red Cross does not
even allow blood donations from people who have been overseas and
potentially contaminated with BSE. However, at the very least the potential
for BSE should be disclosed through proper labelling of imported foods.
ADVERTISING AND MISINFORMATION
Labels are for the provision of factual information and should not be used for
marketing. Boasting that the product is 99% fat free when it is laden with
sugar does little to help the consumer make an informed decision. There is
also the problem of foods touting possible health benefits when there is no
substantiated evidence to support their claims. This is often done through
subtle manipulation of words. Whilst they cannot say “prevents risk of
osteoporosis” they can say “strengthens bones”. Marketers have also
become very good at stretching the truth like boasting that the product
contains real fruit when there is minimal fruit in the product or only a fruit
derived concentrate or fructose.
Products should only be branded as wholemeal if they contain whole meal or
whole grain wheat or flour. White flour or rice products that have been
colored brown with caramel or artificial colours are not wholemeal and should
not be allowed to be labelled as wholemeal or brown. The same should apply
to wholemeal products that have had the whole grains removed and then
added back as wheat bran. Similarly, unnatural fibres like maltodextrin and
inulin are being added to ice creams, biscuits and juices so that the
manufacturer can claim that the product is high in fibre. These isolated,
unnatural fibres are not likely to have the same health benefits as naturally
occurring fibre. In reality these ingredients are little more than cheap filling
Boasting that a product is trans fat free implies that the product is safe or
healthy. Replacing the trans fat with saturated fat does not mean it is any
better for heart health. Trans fats should be banned but to use their absence
for marketing purposes is just lame.
CONCERNS OVER COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
“Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients” This is a vague but all
too common product description that tells us nothing about where the
ingredients are from and what proportion are from offshore. If products
contain ingredients sourced offshore then the country of origin should be listed
for those ingredients. Where the country is not disclosed, it can be assumed
that the country of origin is Australia. Example: Soy (China), wheat,
maltodextrin (India), iodised salt.
Alternatively the percentage of Australian sourced and foreign sourced
ingredients could be displayed.
There is confusion as to terms like “made in Australia”, “packaged in Australia”
and “Australian owned” and the various symbols that are used - Australian
flag, map of Australia, pictures of Australian icons.
At the very least, Australia and New Zealand should adopt the same
standards as the European Union. Better yet, we would improve upon their
model and become the world leaders in food labeling. Food labels are the
most convenient and easily accessible place for information. Websites,
consumer hotlines and other information services are not a substitute for
sound labeling. Thank you again for this opportunity to contribute. In
summary, here are the key points that I feel need to be considered:
Consumers depend on labels as their main source of information
when making purchasing decisions. Ease of use should not be at
the expense of proper disclosure and good information.
We have a right to know how the product is manufactured -
whether it been genetically modified or engineered, whether
nanotechnology been used, and whether it has been processed in
such as way as to free up proteins (glutamates).
Ingredients need to be disclosed with specificity. Vague terms
like “natural flavour”, “vegetable oil”, “skim milk powder” and
“water/aqua” do not provide enough information to make an
Palm oil should be labelled as palm oil.
Full labeling of all food ingredients that have been produced using
genetic modification, regardless of whether the levels of GM
proteins and DNA are detectable or not. GM should extend to
animal feed, processed oils, refined sugars and starches,
enzymes, additives and pet food.
Anything that contains MSG or creates MSG during processing
should be labelled accordingly. At present MSG is only identified
when it is added as a separate ingredient but savvy manufacturers
create MSG from protein structures during the processing of the
food. This obviates the need to add MSG separately and therefore
it’s presence is well hidden.
Food labels should follow a set layout for ease of use and
Improvements are needed in labeling the country of origin and the
source of ingredients
Please consider your own health and that of your family
and loved ones when forming your decisions. If we cannot
ban questionable ingredients or practices, then it is essential
that food labels provide enough information for us to make a
well informed decision. As paying customers, this should be
a right, not a privilege.