The Australian consumer organisation CHOICE has released new research showing that a clear majority of Australians support replacing the food industry’s front-of-pack labelling system with a new Health Star Rating scheme. The nationally representative survey of 1,063 online Australians was conducted at the beginning of December 2013. Respondents discussed images of the Daily Intake Guide and Health Star Rating.
The survey aims to put pressure on Australia’s food and health ministers meeting tomorrow. The food industry has been pushing to retain the Daily Intake Guide scheme which was introduced by the Australian Food and Grocery Council in 2006. It has been heavily criticised by consumer and public health groups which see it as complex and misleading.
The key findings from CHOICE’s research are:
- 62% of Australians have either never heard of the food industry’s Daily Intake Guide, or at best rarely use it to choose food products. This is despite the system being in the market for seven years and according to industry, currently featuring on 7,200 products on supermarket shelves.
- 62% of respondents said they would support the new scheme replacing the existing Daily Intake Guide.
- 60% of respondents nominated public health and consumer groups as being trust-worthy in developing a nutrition label, compared to only 16% nominating the industry.
- Consumers prefer nutrient information to be presented “per 100g”, not “per serve”. 3/5 of respondents said “per 100g” was a more meaningful measure for nutrient information than the “per serve” measure (which is used on the Daily Intake Guide). The main reasons were that “per 100g” was easier to understand and made comparison easier. Moreover manufacturer’s definition of a serve is not always what they would consider a portion to be.
“Australians are saying very clearly that they want better food labels, and we call on the nation’s food and health ministers to hear this message when they meet tomorrow,” says CHOICE-CEO Alan Kirkland. "We have recently seen several countries, including the UK, introduce easy to understand, interpretive, front of pack labelling schemes which simplify the nutrition information panel because evidence shows this supports consumers to choose healthier foods," adds Ms Martin Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition.
The new Health Star Rating System scheme would provide a rating of up to 5 stars on the front of food products, along with critical details about salt, sugar and saturated fat, allowing consumers to make quick comparisons between products.