New Zealand awaits for Aussie results on food labels

THE decision on whether packaged food in New Zealand will have a rating system of ticks, stars or colours will depend on how successful the scheme is in Australia.

That country has just launched a trial health-star rating system with labels that show salt, fat, sugar and energy content.

The scale is measured in half-star increments and is a voluntary system.

After two years, it will be evaluated and could be made mandatory.

After a meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Ministers Food Regulation Forum, New Zealand opted to watch what happens with the Australian roll-out.

But in the next few weeks, Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye will meet an advisory group of public health officials appointed by the Government to hear their views on the Australian system and to discuss possible approaches to voluntary front-of-pack labelling here.

The extent of transtasman trade in food means that it is important that what New Zealand does aligns with Australia, said Jenny Reid, manager Food Risk Assessment at the Ministry of Primary Industries.

The advisory group has already agreed that positive marks, such as stars, would be the basis of a ratings system and that any front of pack labelling system in New Zealand would be voluntary.

It is widely expected New Zealand will piggy-back on the Australian system because of strong transtasman connections in the food industry.

Last week, the UK launched its traffic-light food labelling system and all the major supermarkets registered for the voluntary programme. But Cadbury and Coca-Cola have not.

They preferred the Guideline Daily Amount system that was already in place.

Dr Helen Eyles, of the University of Auckland's National Institute for Health Innovation, said front of package labelling helped consumers know the true nutritional value of products.

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