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Chapter 3 – Collecting and providing relevant consumer information

Strategic imperative

To support informed consumer decisions about food by collecting and providing relevant information.

Highlights 2014–15

  • Reviewed food-health relationships, based on health claims authorised for use in Europe, for possible inclusion in the Code.
  • Reviewed the currency of existing food-health relationships underpinning high level health claims in the Code, completing work on the relationship between sodium and blood pressure.
  • Completed technical evaluations and provided advice on a further seven of the 21 Labelling Logic recommendations referred to FSANZ; two remaining matters to be completed by mid-2016.
  • Attracted more than 100,000 unique visitors to the Nutrition Panel Calculator on the FSANZ website making it the most popular site page.
  • Processed two requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cwth.)
  • Maintained an extensive committee system for our stakeholders to contribute to FSANZ's work, involving membership from the community, the food industry, individual citizens, public health groups and other arms of government.

Introduction

FSANZ is a data-centric organisation. Information in numerical or narrative form provides the evidence base that allows us to develop risk management options and make regulatory decisions. Some of the material is generated by FSANZ (e.g. through surveys, information services or analysis of externally generated data). Other material is obtained from a myriad of sources, including government departments or agencies, academia, stakeholder submissions, public health groups and the food industry.

Because we are a very transparent agency, we publish most of the information and some of the data that we hold on our website, using media releases, publications and social media as signposts to the website resource. We provide consumers and small businesses with information services, such as the Nutrition Panel Calculator and food composition data tables. We also operate emergency communication tools for food recalls and allergy alerts.

During the year, the FSANZ Board has been discussing the feasibility and merits of coordinating these digital resources under the management of an 'information and referral hub'. The aim would be to collect information and data, store and manage it for easy retrieval and build on our existing activities to make this material more accessible to the community. In addition, we would explore the interactive capabilities of digital technology to improve our ability to receive input to our work from individuals and organisations.



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Stakeholder engagement

Advisory groups

FSANZ is grateful to many people for providing us with feedback and advice not only during formal public consultation processes, but also through stakeholder committees, with membership coming from the community, the food industry, individual citizens, public health groups and other arms of government.

Appendix 3 contains the names of people serving on FSANZ committees in 2014–15.

Case study: Improving food safety practices of SMEs

FSANZ collaborated with Safe Food Production Queensland and Dairy Australia to improve crisis management and build brand confidence for small to medium enterprise (SME) dairy businesses in south-east Queensland. Specifically, we provided input on the food recall process, leading a detailed session on the food recall resources available from FSANZ and the information required by FSANZ when a food recall is initiated.

Workshops provided the participating dairy businesses with access to resources and industry and regulatory expertise, in a bid to build trust between food businesses and government agencies and to improve food safety practices.

Allergen Collaboration

The Allergen Collaboration aims to strengthen engagement and collaboration among a range of key stakeholders involved in managing food allergens. During the year, members identified three focus areas for current and future work:

  • Targeted communication to the food service sector— ongoing work to assist the food service sector in developing its capability to implement non-regulatory risk management measures for food allergens, and to better communicate its regulatory obligations to food service staff. The Collaboration is currently finalising a free training video for food service staff that will be made publicly available in the second half of 2015.
  • Targeted communication with stakeholders about 'action levels'— development of strategies to educate stakeholders (e.g. health professionals and consumers) about the concept of allergen thresholds and when food allergic consumers should avoid certain foods.
  • Food importer education – regulatory obligations relating to food allergen labelling— consideration of non-regulatory measures (e.g. targeted communication activities) to help importers understand their regulatory obligations in relation to food allergen labelling.

Food label information

Manufacturers use food labels to convey important information to consumers and to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions. It is essential that this information is accurate and not misleading.

Health claims substantiation

Health claims are claims on food labels, or in advertising, that state, suggest or imply that a food or a property of food has, or may have, a health effect. The Code sets out the requirements for making health claims. Health claims must be based on a food-health relationship that has been substantiated by a process of systematic scientific review.

In 2014–15, FSANZ reviewed food-health relationships based on health claims authorised for use in Europe. Reviews of food-health relationships about potassium and blood pressure, pectins and blood cholesterol, and walnuts and endothelial dysfunction have been completed. We are considering whether these relationships and two relationships about meal replacements can be included in standard 1.2.7.

We are also in the process of reviewing the currency of existing food-health relationships underpinning high level health claims in standard 1.2.7. We have completed work on the relationship between sodium and blood pressure.

Work is well advanced on relationships between several properties of food and blood cholesterol, and some food properties with various aspects of glucose metabolism. We are also considering the second part of EU-authorised health claims relating to blood cholesterol being a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Labelling Review

In 2012, the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) provided a response to recommendations of the report Labelling Logic: Review on Food Labelling Law and Policy (Labelling Review). FSANZ was given responsibility for responding to 21 recommendations relating to a variety of labelling issues. These included, for example, label presentation and format, the labelling of food safety elements, nutrition information, ingredient labelling and country of origin labelling.

We have completed work on nine of the assigned recommendations (Table seven in the current year). Nine other recommendations assigned to FSANZ relate to initiatives that are the responsibility of other agencies. We are providing assistance to these agencies as required.

Table 10: Outcomes of completed Labelling Review projects assigned to FSANZ

Labelling Review recommendation
Outcome
Rec.6 That the food safety elements on the food label be reviewed with the aim to maximise the effectiveness of food safety communication. FSANZ completed its technical evaluation and advice, which is now under consideration by the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC).
Rec.13 The mandatory declaration in the Nutrition Information Panel of all trans fatty acids, if manufactured trans fatty acids have not been phased out of the food supply. FSANZ completed its technical evaluation and advice. The Forum asked FSANZ to conduct another survey of TFAs, with a focus on imported oils, and report back in early 2017.
Rec.14 The mandatory declaration of total and naturally occurring fibre in the Nutrition Information Panel. FSANZ completed its technical evaluation and advice. The Forum determined that no further action is required.
Rec.15 Voluntary declaration of potassium content in the Nutrition Information Panel. Completed as part of Proposal P293 – Nutrition, Health & Related Claims.
Rec.20 Introduce a standard for nutrition, health and related claims. Standard 1.2.7– Nutrition, Health and Related Claims has been introduced.
Rec.26 That the energy content of all alcoholic beverages be displayed on their labels. FSANZ completed a cost-benefit analysis, which is now under consideration by FRSC.
Rec.40 Australia's existing mandatory country of origin labelling requirements for food be extended to cover all primary food products for retail sale. FSANZ completed its technical evaluation and advice. The Forum determined that FSANZ did not need to prepare a proposal.
Rec.43 The Perceptible Information Principle be used as a guide for presenting label information. FSANZ completed its technical evaluation and advice. The Forum determined that no further action is required.
Rec.47 That warning and advisory statements be emboldened and allergens emboldened in the ingredients list. FSANZ has completed its technical evaluation and advice, which is now under consideration by FRSC.

 

Two recommendations that remain on the FSANZ work program will be addressed in 2015–16. These involve preparing a response to recommendations about the possible inclusion of added sugars, added fats and/or added vegetable oils in the ingredient list, and the need for mandatory irradiation labelling.

We continued to consult with an intergovernmental advisory group, with jurisdictional and regulatory partner representation, to inform and guide the progress of this work.

Nutrition Panel Calculator

The Nutrition Panel Calculator provides the food industry and other users with a readily available easy-to-use interactive tool for preparing nutrition information panels, to make it easier to meet the labelling requirements of the Code. In 2014–15, the calculator continued to be the most popular features of FSANZ's website. This year, on average, there were 14,000 hits on the NPC landing page each month, by approximately 9,000 unique users
per month.

Above: FSANZ's labelling poster explains the Food Standards Code's requirements for product labelling including the Nutrition Information Panel.

Information for the community

Release of personal information and freedom of information requests

FSANZ processed two requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cwth.). One sought access to documents relating to the decision by FSANZ to exclude the health and safety risks arising from the use of nanomaterials from the scope of Proposal P1034. The other sought copies of all correspondence between FSANZ and the Forum on Food Regulation, from 1 December 2014 until 30 January 2015, inclusive, relating to the mandatory labelling of trans fatty acids.

In both cases, we granted partial access to documents and information on this access is available on our website.

2010–11
2011–12
2012–13
2013–14
2014–15
Requests under FOI legislation
3
7
10
6
2

 

FSANZ has finalised one request for access to personal information under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cwth.).

Initial enquiries concerning access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act or access to personal information under the Privacy Act should be directed to the FOI coordinator at FOI@foodstandards.gov.au or on +61 2 6271 2222.

 

​Last section Chapter 2 Regulating and managing food risks Next section – Chapter 4 Key enablers
 

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