From Stock and Land
27/10/2008 7:00:00 AM
State and Federal governments have promised an independent review of food labelling laws, which will revisit the "traffic light" system of labelling for salt, sugar and fat content.
The review was agreed to in principle at the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council in Adelaide on Friday and will also examine the issue of labelling all food sourced from genetically modified crops.
The decision coincided with an open letter signed by 15 internationally recognised scientists protesting over Australia's comparatively lax labelling laws for GE food, sent to the federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, last week.
The letter calls for an urgent independent review of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, noting that the authority is one of only a few regulators in the world to have approved every single application it has received for GE products.
Many other countries are passing more stringent food labelling laws controlling GE foods but products such as oils, starches and sugars still require no labelling in Australia.
One of the letter's signatories, Dr Judy Carman, a director of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, said the decision not to mandate the labelling of GM oils was based on FSANZ's flawed belief the oils do not contain DNA or protein.
Meat, milk, cheese and eggs produced by animals that have been fed genetically engineered crops are also exempt from labelling.
"There is strong scientific evidence that FSANZ is wrong and that these animal products should be labelled," she said.
The separate issue of front-of-pack traffic-light labelling will be examined in the proposed review.
The labelling system is loathed by many food manufacturers because it identifies products high in salt, sugar, saturated fats and total fat through a simple code using red, amber and green spots.
The issue is complicated by the absence of any regulation mandating the labelling of trans fatty acids.
These are more harmful than saturated fats, yet under the proposed traffic light system these would still be classified under total fats.
Last week the Australian Medical Association added its weight to the trans fats debate, backing legislation introduced by the Greens in the NSW Parliament to move towards a total ban, as Demark has done.
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