Herald on food labelling

The Herald editorial:

On Sunday at last, Minister Nikki Kaye signed an agreed standard that will hold food manufacturers to account for more than 200 common health claims such as “rich in calcium”, “low in fat”.

The standard will take effect in a month and manufacturers will have three years to ensure their products comply with it.

I think it is a good thing to require health claims to be accurate.

It will be a task of the Ministry for Primary Industries to approve such claims for New Zealand products before they are put on sale. Manufacturers have welcomed the regulation and it is to be hoped they see it not as a restriction but as a golden marketing opportunity. Their products should boast their ability to meet the standard and let it underline the health benefits printed on the package.

It is good that the food industry has been supportive of these rules. They have an interest in being able to say their claims are verified.

All parties in politics have something positive to offer and on this subject the country owes much to the Greens, particularly their former MP Sue Kedgley. She made food standards her mission in politics and health-conscious consumers will be grateful to her.

It is a pity her party was equivocal in its support for the standard yesterday. Its new food safety spokeswoman, Mojo Mathers, said the regulations should not just check health claims, they should require warnings of unhealthy contents. They should not. People know the food that is not good for them and they indulge in it because they like it. They do not need warnings on the carton.

I agree. Factual information is good, but warnings are silly because no food is bad or unhealthy in moderation. A Big Mac every couple of months is fine – having them three times a day is not.

When they go looking for healthy food, however, they need and deserve to be able to trust the manufacturer’s claims.


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