MAKERS of sugar-rich foods such as Nutri-Grain and other cereals and fruit bars claiming questionable health benefits will have to change their labels or their ingredients under new truth in labelling measures.
But after months of controversy, food ministers appear to have bowed to food industry pressure and proposed allowing food companies to introduce products making questionable health claims before regulators can stop them, food ministers decided yesterday.
Regulators would be able to force changes subsequently if products were found to breach food and labelling standards, health and consumer groups say. Victoria and New Zealand could also be able to opt out of assessment of health claims by the trans-Tasman regulators, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, in what has been described as a ”messy” compromise by one source.
The minister’s refusal to enforce a proposed requirement that health claims on food labels be subjected to regulatory checks before they go on sale has drawn warnings from health and consumer groups that an unhealthy product could gain a market foothold before being pulled up.
The consumer group Choice condemned the decision, declaring food and health ministers had abandoned the independent verification of new health claims and given the food industry an effective veto over food labelling policy.