I'm wondering why the Government is about to approve the importation of irradiated apples, peaches, apricots and nine other fruit and vegetables from fruit fly-infested Queensland. After all, we have an abundance of locally grown produce here that doesn't need to be irradiated, and it's still difficult for our growers to get their apples sold in Australia. So why is our Government bending over backwards to allow even more irradiated produce into our food chain? Nor can I understand why our Government wants to remove the requirement that irradiated food must be labelled.
Hidden Ingredients in Food
There are many ingredients in our food that manufacturers are not required to disclose, because our food labeling law is so inadequate.
There is no requirement to disclose palm oil, for example, even though many consumers want to avoid food that contains palm oil, because of the destruction palm oil plantations are causing to rain forests in Asia an elsewhere, and to the habitats of Orangutan.
Nor is there any requirement to disclose trans fats in food, even though these artery clogging and artificially produced fats can increase your chance of developing coronary heart disease.
And there is no requirement to disclose the vast majority of genetically engineered ingredients in food, even though GE foods have never undergone any proper safety testing and most consumers want to avoid them.
Lack of disclosure
And in New Zealand manufactures and retailers don't need to tell us where our food comes from.
The majority of consumers who made submissions on the recent FSANZ review of food labeling said they wanted all of these ingredients to be declared on a label. But the food industry has lobbied vigorously against disclosing any of these ingredients, because they fear that consumers might not want to buy their food if they knew some of the hidden ingredients it contained.
Food manufacturers see the label as a marketing tool to help them sell their food, and they don't want anything on a label that might deter people from buying their food.
In an unguarded moment, a Monsanto executive once explained why Monsanto was so opposed to any form of GE labeling. He said having a GE label on food would be a bit like having a skull and crossbones on it — and no one would want to buy the food.
That's the reason food manufacturers are so opposed to traffic light labeling as well — they know that most consumers wouldn't want to buy food with a red dot on it, indicating that it was unhealthy.
Unfortunately the food industry is winning the battle so far — and ensuring that many ingredients in food remain hidden — because successive governments have not been prepared to get offside with this powerful lobby group.
- New Zealand must support Australian moves on palm oil - Green Party website
- Consumers need to know if products contain palm oil - Green Party website
- 43 genetically modified foods in our food supply - Frogblog (Green Party blog)
- Food Bill update from Sue Kedgley - Frogblog (Green Party blog)
- Green Party survey shows growers face ruin from supermarket duopoly - Green Party website
- 2011 survey shows producers being squeezed by supermarkets - Green Party website
- Independent supermarket watchdog needed for any code of conduct - Green Party website
- Have a heart and label trans-fats - Green Party website
I wonder how long it will be before our Government removes a completely unnecessary, artificial, industrial product from our food supply that is a powerful promoter of heart disease. Most doctors and public health professionals agree that artificially produced trans fats, still widely used in food, increase our risk of coronary heart disease. Like saturated fats, trans fats raise our levels of "bad" cholesterol. But they also lower our "good" cholesterol that protects against heart disease, and that's why they are considered to be worse than saturated fats for our health.
Forcing manufacturers to prove health claims a start but only traffic light system gives desired info at a glance. If you wander around a supermarket, you'll find all sorts of fanciful health claims on food - claims that consuming certain brands of margarine will lower your cholesterol or that various foods will reduce your risks of developing heart disease or osteoporosis. This is odd because only one health claim is legally permitted on food labels at the moment - namely a claim that folate lowers the risk of neural tube defects in unborn babies.
In a few weeks' time, the governments of Australia and New Zealand will decide whether to introduce a new system on food labels that will enable consumers to see at a glance whether food is healthy. At the moment, it's almost impossible for shoppers to work out from a label, whether food is healthy or laden with fat, sugar and salt. This makes shopping difficult for people who want to buy healthy food for their families, especially when there are so many foods to choose from in the supermarket.
Sue talks to supermarket shoppers about food labelling read more...
Two years ago, Food Standards Australia New Zealand set up an expert panel to look at our food labels, and how they could be improved. The panel came up with 61 excellent and wide-ranging recommendations for improving our labels--improved allergy labelling, disclosure of palm oil, trans fat, traffic light labels etc But unfortunately, our government has rejected most of them It says mandatory labelling ‘conflicts with our free trade liberalisation agenda,’ and could be perceived to be an ‘unfair trading barrier.’