Food minister holds back on traffic-light labels

By Martin Johnston

Food Minister Kate Wilkinson has angered the Greens by not revealing her stand on recommendations relating to traffic-light food labels. File photo / NZ Herald
Food Minister Kate Wilkinson has angered the Greens by not revealing her stand on recommendations relating to traffic-light food labels. File photo / NZ Herald

National's Food Minister, Kate Wilkinson, will not say before the election whether she supports the "traffic light" food-labelling system recommended by an official transtasman review - a silence tagged "despicable" by the Greens.

Ms Wilkinson will not reveal her position on the controversial proposal and other food labelling recommendations until she has presented them to next month's meeting of the transtasman food ministers' council.

Labour doesn't have an opinion on the recommendations, but health spokesman Grant Robertson said there was value in traffic-light labelling.

Greens food spokeswoman Sue Kedgley welcomed the report's proposals to improve nutrition labels and its urged enhancement of Australia's country-of-origin labelling, a policy her party is striving to have applied here.

She abhorred consumers' being kept in the dark about the Government's position until after the election. "[It] is despicable, frankly."

She understood the Government would oppose most of the recommendations in the report, released in January, of the review conducted for the food ministers' council.

Ms Wilkinson's spokesman was unable to comment until the review has been presented next month, but said: "The minister sees merit in some recommendations but is wary of any measures that could see increased costs forced onto consumers."

Food & Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich, a former National MP, said it would be wrong of Ms Wilkinson to reveal her position before the council meeting.

"To try and make it an election issue wouldn't be good process."

The report recommends introducing a generally voluntary multiple traffic lights front-of-pack label, but says it should be mandatory if health claims are made.

Ms Rich's sister lobby group in Australia said the reviewers' more-prescriptive approach flagged "greater costs for industry and government".

PROPOSALS
* Traffic lights on packaged food - red, orange, green dots to indicate how healthy/unhealthy it is.
* Chain restaurants encouraged to use same system on menus.
* Palm oil no longer disguised as "vegetable oil".
* Trans fats to be listed above a certain percentage.

ON THE WEB
Foodlabellingreview.gov.au

- NZ Herald

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