Truth on the food labelling menu this week

‘Truth in labelling’ non-animal foods will be on the table for discussion at this week’s meeting of the multi-government Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) in Brisbane on Wednesday.

 NSW is represented on the FRSC by representatives of the NSW Food Authority & the NSW Department of Health.

 Minister Bridget McKenzie chairs the Australia & New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, on which NSW is represented by Minister Marshall and Minister Hazzard, and to which the FRSC reports.

 Dairy Connect CEO Shaughn Morgan said today that legal opinion was certainly swinging behind the need to accurately brand and detail plant-derived products.

 Last week the European Parliament’s agriculture committee voted for a new law to ban the use of words such as ‘burger, hamburger, steak or sausage’ on food packaging and promotion if that food was ‘primarily made up of vegetable proteins’.

 “Dairy Connect has long espoused ‘truth in labelling’ with respect to plant-sourced products that use animal product terms as camouflage on consumer shelves,” he said.

 “Expert scientific analysis has proven beyond doubt that so-called plant-based drinks called ‘milks’ are nutritionally inferior to natural dairy milk from dairy cows, as plant-based drinks need to be fortified.

 “The use of the term ‘milk’ for plant beverages is clearly misleading as these products are competing against dairy in a rapidly changing consumer marketplace.”

 In October last year, Regional Services Minister Bridget McKenzie asked a meeting of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to crack down on ‘imitation terminology’ in the food business.

 The Senator told the media she wanted consumers to be confident that when they bought honey, it was real honey; when they bought meat, it was from an animal; and when they bought milk, it was from dairy cows.

Senator McKenzie said changes were needed to protect the reputation of Australian farmers and the products they produced. Dairy Connect strongly submits that this view has not changed.

Bridget McKenzie stated that farmers feared their businesses were at risk because shoppers often did not realise they were buying plant-based products, rather than products from animals.

Shaughn Morgan said the Food Regulation Standing Committee has, as part of its role, to harmonise regulations governing food products and marketing in Australia and New Zealand.

“Mandatory label information to protect consumers from food safety challenges is well established,” he said.

“Examples of this include product description, allergen rating and manufacturer contact details.

“Products also carry mandatory information that helps consumers pursue healthy diets.

“Technologies such as internet-enabled devices now provide an opportunity to communicate almost unlimited information to consumers, including at point of sale.”

“We are not saying not to buy plant-based drinks, just call them what they are, and they are not milks. Dairy milk has a higher natural nutritional value than fortified waters”, Shaughn concluded.