It is only right that those consuming food should know as much about that food as they can before deciding to eat it or not. This is especially important with prepackaged foods as when it is purchased there is no-one around who was involved in making it.
The Food Standards Code and other legislation in Australia requires that prepackaged food must meet specific labelling requirements, which provides information on what is in that packaging.
The problem is that the space on a food package label is often very small and there is a lot of information that has to appear on it.
The following is just the beginning; ingredient list (in a specific order), allergens contained, the nutritional panel ( in a specific form), the weight / volume, the manufacturer / importer name, address, the heating / cooking / usage instructions, the storage instructions, the “new” Countrof Origin (meeting specific requirements) and of course the description and photo, as well as allowed health claims. Don’t forget the Health Star ratings as well
That is a lot of information for manufacturers to find and ensure is correct. It is particularly onerous for small manufacturers who usually do not have th resources to be able to pay the staff used by the big guys to manage this.
The introduction of the Country of Origin Labelling and it’s ongoing checking has been difficult especially for those small food companies.
Recently there has been the voluntary introduction of labelling showing the type of plastic used in the packaging in specific diagrammatic format.
Now there is a strong call for food packaging to clearly show the Greenhouse Gas content of the process and packaging of the specific food. This would use a flower type symbol with a breakdown into four quarters showing; the amount of water involved in the process, the amount of emissions, the pesticide toxicity and the Impact on biodiversity.
Besides the difficulties that manufacturers are now having trying to meet all their labelling requirements and obligations, the other group that needs to be considered is the customer and consumer.
Labels are already incredibly complex and for many consumners, just confusing. With even more information being expected by various agancies and organisationsd and the government, this is only going to get worse.
Now whilst all of this it is very good information and very useful to some consumers and for comparing products, there has to be a question asked at some point – “Just how much information can we and should we put onto our food labels”?
In this day of apps and computer access, does this information have to go onto the physical product or can it somehow be shown digitally and only the information that actually impacts on the food safety and quality of the food left on the label.
This is truly one of those times when we can definitely say “Watch this (label) space”, because who knows what they are going to look like in even five years time.