What you can do to help
You can help by writing for change.
I would appreciate your help in writing and talking to Ministers, your local member and the media to keep them aware of the extent of problems caused by poor food regulation. The current addresses of all health State Ministers and the Commonwealth Minister can be found on the web.
- Letters to and from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) about misleading and deceptive labelling issues, referring the issue back to ACCC (May 2011)
- Outcome from review of food labelling in Australia (January 2011)
In 2010 FIN members put a huge effort into two submissions and now we are looking at what we might have achieved. Our main focus was on ingredient labels and we basically asked for full disclosure: all ingredients listed, other information such as full country of origin labelling and penalties for labels with incorrect information. You can see a list of what we asked for, and what we got below:
We asked for: all additives to be listed in the ingredient label instead of the 5% labelling loophole, under which some additives don't have to be listed in certain conditions.
What we got: the panel said 'it may not be feasible' to fit that information on the packet. In other words, no, all additives are not listed (paragraph 4.22). Funny that the same multinational food companies can fit this information on the label in the EU and UK!
We asked for: full disclosure of every ingredient in a product.
What we got: the panel recommended that 'vegetable oil' should no longer be an acceptable label - instead the type of vegetable oil should be specified (e.g. palm oil, sunflower oil). So that's a smidge of good news. Pity we won't necessarily know whether it contains synthetic antioxidants if the level is below 5%.
We asked for: the same mandatory warning about certain artificial colours as is used in Europe ('may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children')
What we got: a recommendation that the food industry and others develop a voluntary code so that consumers can quickly identify additives that are of agreed medical priority for sensitive consumers. Not much chance of an improvement there! (Recommendation 11)
We asked for: Labelling of high glutamate ingredients (e.g. hydrolysed vegetable protein) that can have the same effects as MSG.
What we got: Nothing about glutamate labelling. MSG (flavour enhancer 621) is not even called an additive - now it is 'an entity' (paragraph 4.23).
We asked for: better monitoring of dodgy food labels and consequences for manufacturers who break the rules. Our submission was quoted in paragraph 8.6 "you 'can walk into any supermarket and find dozens of breaches of the label regulations'".
What we got: a recommendation for a new and effectively funded body to monitor food labelling and complaints. Great! Here's hoping it happens, and it works.
See the full FIN submissions below.
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about misleading and deceptive labelling issues with Zed Snack Food Company's Dip Stix Sweet Chili and Lime and with Bazaar Lavash flatbread (November 2010)
- Final submission to Australian Review of Labelling Policy (May 2010)
- Submission to FSANZ opposing extension of use of artificial red colour Erythrosine 127 (Application A603) (December 2009)
- Submission to Chair of FSANZ on colours from Kids First Campaign (March 2009)
- Submission to Chair on FSANZ on reactions to additive 635 (ribonucleotides) from Food Intolerance Network (March 2009)
- Submission on ADHD to Royal Australian College of Physicians on their draft guidelines on ADHD, which in draft minimize diet and ignore relevant research (July 2008)
- MEDIA RELEASE: Let's halve the rate of asthma says Network (February 2007)
- Letter to FSANZ withdrawing application on Declaration of Antioxidants in Fats and Oils (January 2007). See draft FSANZ Assessment Report http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/A555%20Antioxidant%20declaration%20IAR%20FINAL.pdf (August 2006)
- Submission to FSANZ on Declaration of Antioxidants in Fats and Oil (Initial Assessment Report A555) (August 2006)
- Letter to Woolworths regarding deletion of Great Lakes pears in syrup (July 2006)
- Submission to NICNAS (National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme) towards their review "Promoting Safer Chemical Use: Towards better regulation of chemicals in Australia" (June 2006)
- Positive response from Amalgamated Holdings (Greater Union Cinema chain) about the ban on taking your own food into their cinemas (September 2005) NOTE that Event Cinemas clarified in November 2011 that "no externally purchased hot food items are allowed to be brought into our cinemas (although some cinemas do permit them and the written conditions still say no food at all)" - thanks Caroline.
- Submission to FSANZ on Proposal 298 benzoates and sulphites in food (September 2005)
- Letters to and from FSANZ seeking to amend the Food Standards Code regarding labelling of all antioxidants in fats and oils (November 2004)
- Letters to and from FSANZ regarding widespread illegal use of sulphites in mince (November 2004)
- Letters to and from FSANZ regarding use of flavours as vehicles for un-declared colours and preservatives (May 2004)
To see dozens of earlier letters to Ministers and food regulators see here. Includes Submission to National Health and Medical Research Council review of 1995 publication on Asthma (November 2003) and Submission to National Health and Medical Research Council review of 1996 publication on ADHD (November 2003)