The review was announced at the Food Regulation Ministerial Council meeting in Brisbane last Friday. The groups say Australian food labelling is much weaker than in European countries and that consumers have a right to meaningful information about the foods they are eating.
Take Action: make a submission to the review
Alarmingly, the Government is only allowing four weeks for public submissions. If you want better food labelling, you can email a personal submission by November 20th 2009 to FoodLabellingReview@health.gov.au.
The review will be chaired by former Federal Health Minister Neal Blewett and its terms of reference can be found here.
Your submission does not have to be long – a few sentences will do. Here are some possible points you could include:
- The Federal Government has still to implement the ALP policy supporting the comprehensive labelling of GE food.
- The labelling of GE food in Australia is extremely limited and excludes some of the most basic and universally used ingredients. Under Australian labelling laws, only foods where GE proteins or DNA can be detected need to be labelled. Highly processed products, such GE canola oil and products from animals fed GE feed, escape labelling.
- Independent polling last year shows that 90% of all Australians want all GE derived foods labelled and that the majority of consumers are less likely to buy food they know contains GE ingredients.
- Consumers want GE foods labelled for a range of environmental, health and ethical reasons and should have the right to avoid GE food if they want to.
- In Europe, all GE food and feed ingredients, including highly processed derivatives such as sugar, refined oil and starch must now be labelled. The European labelling regime resulted in only a negligible cost increase for industry and no additional costs for consumers. There is no reason why Australia can’t adopt the same standards.
For more information on the need for comprehensive GE labelling see our Eating in the Dark report.
It's time for better labelling
Consumers in Europe are provided with easy to understand front of pack nutritional labelling and are told whether their food contains additives or products derived from genetically engineered crops. The European Parliament has backed the mandatory labelling of all food derived from nanotechnology. Meanwhile Australian consumers are left effectively eating in the dark.
A Newspoll survey last year showed that 90 per cent of Australians want all ingredients derived from genetically engineered crops to be labelled. Yet the vast majority of GE ingredients are currently exempt from labelling. Consumers have a fundamental right to know what is in their food and how it is produced.
Georgia Miller from Friends of the Earth, who is campaigning for the comprehensive labelling of foods containing manufactured nanoparticles, says, "Our current labelling laws are inadequate and do not give consumers the information they need to make informed choices about the food they eat."
Dr Howard Dengate from the Food Intolerance Network says Australian consumers should enjoy the same protection as consumers in the European Union. "All food additives and active ingredients should be clearly labelled. Artificial food colourings that may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children should carry the same mandatory warnings as the EU."
Individuals and organizations have less than a month to send in their submissions to the review. Given the importance and complexities of the issues involved, the groups believe that the one month public submission period should be extended. Consumers have waited a long time for the opportunity to input into such a review, and one month doesn’t allow full community participation.