Page 1383 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

There have been mixed results from studies conducted on the New York experience. One has shown that about one-third of customers made healthier choices as a result of the information being provided. Another study showed that there was little impact on consumers’ choice, but the study was conducted in districts of New York that had a low socioeconomic status, and it can be observed that fast food in such areas is likely to be cheaper and easier to access than healthy foods, as is often the case.

It is already clear that fast-food outlets will change their recipes and menus to provide meals that have lower kilojoule contents, which does mean that it is changing the behaviour of the businesses that provide the food, and that is a positive. In New York, for example, Starbucks reformulated many of its recipes to cut 50 to 100 calories from pastries. And the California Pizza Kitchen reformed its entire children’s menu and some of its pizzas, cutting out excess butter and salt. The new laws do force the hand of the restaurants themselves, as they are diligent in protecting their brand’s image and public perception of social responsibility.

In 2009 the UK Food Standards Agency launched a voluntary trial of nutrition labelling on menus. The trial involved 18 of the largest restaurants, sandwich chain stores and workplace caterers, listing energy—kilojoule—counts next to products on shelves, on menus or at cash registers.

In Australia, New South Wales, as I have already noted, has passed legislation. The New South Wales law came into effect in February 2011, but there is a 12-month period before enforcement will begin.

The New South Wales government did at one point consider adopting an industry-led code of practice based on self-regulation. However, public health professionals and consumer advocates were apprehensive given the failure of such systems in the past and, as such, were very pleased to see a move to mandatory labelling.

The South Australian government announced just recently that it will introduce this scheme and do so via regulations rather than legislation. The South Australian minister, Mr Hill, has said that he plans to have the scheme in operation from next January.

The previous Victorian Premier, Mr Brumby, did announce that the government would be pursuing a similar scheme, with the aim of having it in force by 2012. It is unclear with the change in government where that work is now heading, although we have not heard any announcement by the Liberal government that they will not be pursuing this sort of legislation.

Given the introduction of legislation in New South Wales and commitments by South Australia, as well as potentially Victoria, to have the schemes in place by the start of next year, my bill is proposing the same, with a commencement date of 1 January 2012.

I understand that health ministers are expected to discuss a variety of food labelling proposals through COAG. However, there is no promise that a proposal such as this will be successful though COAG, and even if it was successful, this could take quite

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video