Timaru (NZ) dietitians working in public health
Food Standards Australia New Zealand is the body entrusted by the government to
determine and administer food standards. Their highest priority when developing or
reviewing standards is stated as the protection of public health and safety. As
dietitians, a key role we have is to communicate with and educate individuals to
make informed choices for their health . Given this relationship and the problems we
know consumers face when interpreting food labels, we are confident to respond to a
number of questions on their behalf.
We believe that implementing the following suggestions will assist individuals to
make better choices for their health.
We see public health and food providers as having very different objectives. As food
providers mainly focus on economics, a regulatory system will ensure public health
interests are a major priority.
Food labels have huge potential to affect public health gain. Consumers are confused
with aspects of existing labeling; some suggestions for revising current guidelines are:
Readability - Research provides evidence for the most readable font size, font
type and background to ensure consumer understanding
All serving sizes be aligned with the Ministry of Health Food and Nutrition
Guidelines. Where gaps exist for serving sizes, e.g. composite foods, we
suggest establishing a Technical Advisory Group to develop consistent portion
sizes as has been previously developed with the Food and Beverage
All Nutrition Information Panels should display the ‘per 100g’ column first-
directly next to the nutrient list. This will help consumers to more easily
compare the nutrient content of similar products to make an informed choice.
All Nutrition Information Panel’s consist of only two columns: ‘per 100g’
column and ‘per serving’ column. The ‘per serving’ column should relate to
the food as consumed e.g. cooked pasta as opposed to dried pasta.
Replace all pictorial icons (NHF, %D.I., G.I., and others) with traffic light
system as it relates to the standard serving sizes for the following components:
o Saturated fat
o Unsaturated fat
o Fibre (where fibre naturally occurs in that food)
Consumers are currently confused with so many pictorial systems on
packaging which aim to help with making a healthy choice. The use of one
government endorsed pictorial system would avoid this confusion.
We recommend the use of traffic lights on the following nutrients: saturated
fat, unsaturated fat, sugars, salt and fibre on products where it naturally
occurs or when a manufacturer has added this to the product. The criteria for
red, orange and green traffic lights could be developed by a technical advisory
group - similar to the group responsible for the development of the food and
beverage classification system
Not appropriate to extend further than existing guidelines. We applaud
current takeaway chains that provide nutrition information to their customers.
We strongly suggest any recommendations adopted through this review under go
consumer focus group testing before they are formally adopted and followed up by
the development of a comprehensive education .programme for health professionals