An open consultation on sugar labelling hopes to increase consumer's knowledge on the amount of sugar in their food.
The consultation, which runs alongside the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, will be open until September and seeks advice from consumers on what would improve sugar labels on packaged food and drinks.
The Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) is inviting stakeholders, including industry, public health and consumer organisations and other interested parties, to make submissions.
The desired outcome is that food labels will provide adequate information about sugars to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of the dietary guidelines.
Food Safety Minister Damien O'Connor said the consultation stems from the fact that people want to know how much sugar is in their food and how they can consume less.
"This is significant progress in an area that matters to New Zealanders," O'Connor said.
"We want food labels to provide clear, contextual information about sugars to allow consumers to make informed choices in support of the dietary guidelines."
The consultation will also look at options for education on how to read and interpret labels, pictures such as teaspoons to convey the amount of sugar and advisory labels for foods high in added sugars.
"Effective labelling contributes to the Government's objective to improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders through healthy eating," O'Connor said.
NZ and Australia share a joint system for food labelling which is overseen by the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.
"New Zealand benefits from the joint food regulatory system with Australia. We export around $3.6 billion of food to Australia and import around $1.8 billion. It makes sense to have the same rules for food labelling across both countries," O'Connor said.
At the November 2017 meeting, the forum agreed that information about sugars provided on food labels does not provide adequate contextual information to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of dietary guidelines and agreed to further examine regulatory and non-regulatory options to address this issue.
Consumer research in relation to understanding of sugars and food labelling suggests that consumers are confused about how much sugars they should be consuming; they may not be able to determine whether a single product is high or low in sugars; and they can be confused about what are added sugars and what types of sugars should be limited in the diet for good health.
There is also limited other information available to consumers in Australia and
Zealand about the added sugars content of foods - beyond food labels.
The latest data available indicates that on average, over half of Australians and New Zealanders exceeded the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommendations in relation to the consumption of added sugars in 2011-12 and 2008-09.
Adolescents in particular were the highest consumers of added sugars in both countries.
Sugar-sweetened beverages were the main contributor to added sugars intakes in the Australia population, while no analysis is available for NZ.
Exceeding the WHO's recommendations for added sugars consumption has been associated with unhealthy weight gain and dental caries.
While causes of both these conditions are complex and do not relate solely to added sugars consumption, these conditions place a significant burden on the Australian and New Zealand community in terms of direct and in-direct costs and health impacts.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased in both NZ and Australia and over the past 10 to 20 years respectively, and now affects around two-thirds of the population in these countries.
Last year NZ was ranked the third fattest country in the world, according to an OECD obesity study, while Australia was ranked the fifth fattest country.
The consultation runs until September 19, 2018 and a preferred option will be provided to the next forum later this year.
Find out more at the online portal.