FoodPro / AIFST Convention 2017

Australia’s food regulation changes: ‘The good, the bad and the ugly’

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

There is considerable activity around food regulations in Australia. ©iStock
There is considerable activity around food regulations in Australia. ©iStock

Related tags Nutrition

The desired policy outcomes for Australian food and drink regulations are rapidly shifting away from food safety and point-of-sale information to being focused on public health and consumer rights…leading to some “good”, but other “bad and ugly” changes to the rules.

And while Chris Preston, legal and regulatory director at the Australian Food & Grocery Council, said industry would always welcome "good"​ regulations, he voiced fears that some might be based on “bad science”​, while others could take decades to resolve.

Speaking at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology convention in Sydney, he said there was broad support for plans to review the requirements in the Food Standards Code for nutritive substances and novel foods.

Regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) recently released a consultation paper on a framework, and is inviting comments until the end of this month.

He also welcomed a review into trade measurement rules, pointing out that “there are four requirements for allergen labelling — now, those are things that can kill you — but for trade measurements, we have 16. We’ve wanted that looked at because it’s far too many”​.

Sugar strife

In terms of the “bad”​, he identified potential changes to labelling rules for added fats and sugars.

This follows an independent review, which stated that where sugars, fats or vegetable oils are added as separate ingredients in a food item, the terms "added sugars"​, "added fats" ​and / or "added vegetable oils"​ should be the ingredient list.

At present, the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) is leading the policy work regarding fats and oils, while FSANZ is investigating labelling approaches for providing information on sugars.

“I don’t know if anyone here can tell the difference between sugar and added sugar,”​ said Preston.

“We need to tell people this is bad science. The real issue is total energy. The labelling of fats is actually all to do with the labelling of palm oil — which is an environmental issue — no matter how they dress it up.”

Maximum residue limits (MRLs) for imported foods, which are currently being reviewed, was classed as the "ugly"​ regulatory change.

These stipulate the highest amount of an agricultural or veterinary chemical residue legally allowed in a food product sold in Australia.

Preston said: “We have a situation where an imported food might comply with (international) CODEX standards, and it may comply with (the) country where it is coming from, but it doesn’t comply with Australian rules. Applying Australian MRLS to all imported foods is plain wrong.”

The reason he branded the regulation "ugly"​ was because of the length of time it is likely to take to be resolved.

“They are doing it one chemical at a time, and there more than 1,000. So we should get this resolved in about 2037!”

First world problems

Looking further ahead, Preston believes it vital that manufacturers understand the regulatory goalposts have shifted.

“Everything used to be about food safety and point-of-sale information, but now we are responsible for public health, for giving the consumers all the information they want, and for how consumers use and recycle products,” ​he said.

“Some of these are largely first world problems ​ which in a way is good because we already have the basics covered. But it means people now have the time to worry about the other stuff.

“You have to remember, the government owns your label space…and to know the desired policy outcome is to predict the regulation.”

Related topics Regulation & Policy

Related news

Follow us


View more


Nutra Champions Podcast

Nutra Champions Podcast