Consumers call for reform of food labelling
Australian consumers have responded with overwhelming support for changes to food labelling laws through a survey conducted by the Humane Society International (HSI). The survey asked respondents to identify what they understood to be meant by terms such as free range, bred free range, barn raised and caged, as well as seeking their views on the adequacy of current food labels and their desire for change.
Of the 3085 survey responses processed by HSI to date, 98.3% of respondents believe that full and adequate labelling is every consumer’s right, yet only 7.4% believe that current labels give enough information to allow them to make informed purchasing decisions.
HSI will be discussing the consumer survey and food labelling reform today at a press conference, held jointly with the NSW Greens and the Free Range Pork Farmers Association.
Location: NSW Parliament House Press Gallery, Macquarie Street, Sydney.
Date: Monday 9th November 2009
“Consumers want and have the right to make informed decisions about the animal-derived food products that they are purchasing,” said HSI Director, Verna Simpson. “However, instead they are met with a suite of confusing, poorly defined and unregulated terms which producers are able to use and misuse at will.”
HSI sought consumer responses to a consumer survey following a number of instances of false and misleading product representation, most notably produce deceptively marketed as free-range. In such cases, the ACCC has failed to take action because there are no fixed standards against which to define labelling terms. It is clear from the consumer confusion evident in the HSI survey that this lack of regulation is paying directly into the pockets of the big producers.
“Misleading marketing and ambiguous terms such as ‘bred free range’ are being used to misguide consumers into thinking they are purchasing ethically produced food,” said Ms Simpson. “Bred free-range was a term created precisely to deceive consumers, and without fear of prosecution, some big producers are doing so with impunity. Our survey has shown that over 93% of respondents did not know that animals raised in bred free-range farming systems only have access to the outdoors in the first few weeks of life.”
A labelling overhaul is overdue. HSI is calling for a national and mandatory labelling scheme for the method of production of all meat, eggs and dairy products, that only permits the use of a limited number of legally defined and regulated animal-welfare descriptors.
Copies of the survey and survey results are available upon request.