Just found this interesting piece from the World Today (ABC Radio). See below for full story.
It mentions anaphylaxis right at the bottom, but the main gist of it is that labelling laws still need to be tighter, and it looks like they are going to review Australia and NZ labelling laws again next year.
Australia already has laws regarding it’s labelling of the top allergic food products, I can’t begin to wonder what it would be like for other countries that don’t have strict labelling laws.
I’d love to hear a comment from someone in a country that doesn’t have labelling laws and how they deal with it.
ELEANOR HALL: A scientist who has found that many foods are inaccurately labelled is calling for a change in Australia’s labelling laws.
Professor Stefan Fabiansson analysed the nutritional content of 70 pre-packaged products for a study by the New South Wales Food Labelling Authority.
Even allowing for a 20 per cent margin of error, he discovered that 30 per cent of the products tested did not comply with their nutritional labels.
And he says, one of Australia’s most famous labels is one of the offenders.
Sabra Lane reports.
SABRA LANE: Nutrition panels on pre-packaged food are supposed to detail how many calories are in the product, as well as protein, fat, carbohydrate, sugar and sodium content.
Patients battling diabetes, high cholesterol and those sticking to low salt diets rely on this information in making their daily choices about what to eat.
Australia’s labelling laws were last amended in 2002. In late 2004, the New South Wales Food Authority decided to find out if the information on these panels accurately reflected what was in the product.
So they bought 70 food products, five samples of each were tested. Dr Stefan Fabiansson was in charge of the study then. He now works at the European Food Safety Authority in Italy.
STEFAN FABIANSSON: It’s a lot of variation in raw materials, so it’s not easy for the food industry to actually give accurate information, but we had hoped that it would have been a little more accurate than it proved to be.
And giving leeway and allowing for small variations, 70 per cent of the product complied and 30 per cent were outside the limit, and we thought that that’s probably a bit over the top.
SABRA LANE: He also discovered that some products, which claimed to be low fat and low salt weren’t.
In another example, one brand of chips had levels of trans fats 13 times higher than claimed on the label.
STEFAN FABIANSSON: Although, you have to admit too that’s it’s quite difficult to analyse trans fats. But 13 times, that’s quite a lot.
SABRA LANE: The Australian Medical Association says there’s no mandatory requirement for the labelling of trans fats.
President Mukesh Haikerwal says they should be listed and they should be phased out of foods.
MUKESH HAIKERWAL: Trans fatty acids are a part of some natural foods, but of course added in many snacks like chips and nuggets and pizzas and so on, and indeed some bakery products. The danger is that these can cause significantly increased risks of heart disease.
As a first step, we need to make sure that we are aware that we’re eating them, so that needs to be mentioned on packaging. And in many countries, including Denmark in particular, it has been removed as an additive, and I think that’s a very important thing to be doing.
SABRA LANE: Dr Fabiansson says inaccurate labelling makes it difficult for patients who need to adhere to a special diet, to protect their health.
STEFAN FABIANSSON: In some cases you really have to look at low salt diets. I mean, you can have a health problem in relation to salt intake.
And that really has to be accurate as well and we found quite a few discrepancies on that as well.
SABRA LANE: Did it surprise you, the kinds of things that you discovered?
STEFAN FABIANSSON: Well, for some of the products it did, and I’m trying to avoid mentioning any brand names or any particular products, but Vegemite was actually well out as well.
And you would have thought that when you’ve made Vegemite for such a long time, you should be able to be accurate in the nutrition information for Vegemite.
SABRA LANE: Kraft, the manufacturer of Vegemite, hasn’t returned phone calls from The World Today.
Dr Fabiansson says Australia’s labelling laws should be re-vamped, and he’s proposing an easier way for consumers to find out what’s actually in the pre-packaged products they buy.
STEFAN FABIANSSON: It’s a trend worldwide currently, to try to introduce signage instead.
Many people can’t really understand what’s in a nutritional information label anyway. So, a simpler method would be to, for example, have in the UK they’ve just introduced a traffic signals; so it’s a green, yellow or red light.
They made it quite complex, so they have one light for each nutritional compound, so that’s a bit difficult to understand as well, but I think that’s a way forward.
SABRA LANE: The AMA also supports a labelling overhaul.
MUKESH HAIKERWAL: Our labelling laws are, I suppose, in need of a revamp.
There’s three main things; one is that the content needs to be accurate, the second is that it needs to be in an understandable form so that people understand kilojoules and they understand calories and it’s important to know what the energy value is of each of the components within the product.
And then we actually need to make sure that things that are potentially dangerous, whether it’s nuts or prawns or some of the other ingredients that cause anaphylaxis are very clearly labelled and get away from the standard copout clause that “it may contain”, because that’s a very misleading claim to put on, and really stops people from being able to access significant amounts of food.
SABRA LANE: Food Standards Australia and New Zealand says labelling standards will be reviewed next year.
ELEANOR HALL: Sabra Lane reporting.