Nutrient Food Standards

Food Standards Australia New Zealand     

P.O. Box 7186

Canberra BC ACT 2610


[email protected]

Comments On: Proposal A479 – Format and Listing of Nutrient in the Nutrition Information Panel 

Dear Sir or Madam:

The National Food Processors Association (NFPA) appreciates the opportunity to review and comment upon Application A479, Format and Listing of Nutrients in the Nutrition Information Panel which has been prepared and circulated for comment by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

NFPA is the voice of the $500 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs. NFPA’s three laboratory centers, its scientists and professional staff represent food industry interests on government and regulatory affairs and provide research, technical services, education, communications and crisis management support for the association’s U.S. and international members, who produce processed and packaged foods, drinks and juices. NFPA is very interested in policy development in countries that trade with the United States and is a strong supporter of the Codex Alimentarius process in an effort to harmonize policy between nations and facilitate trade. Many NFPA members export products to or import ingredients from Australia and New Zealand and closely follow regulatory policy development by FSANZ.

NFPA is supportive of mandatory food labeling initiatives only when the information required to be disclosed is material to the product. NFPA has a long history of critically assessing food labeling regulations, and has submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada , European Commission and other national entities on several proposals related to nutrition labeling. In our submissions, NFPA consistently stresses support for a harmonized approach to methods and presentation. Mandatory nutrition labeling has been implemented in several countries in recent years; and requirements will soon be implemented in the EC and Canada . Taking into account the global trade in processed and packaged food products, wide variances in labeling approaches are burdensome to the industry, increase costs to consumers, and inhibit market expansion. Consequently, NFPA strongly supports the application under consideration that would allow some flexibility in labeling format as long as the core information requirements are satisfied. NFPA supports Option 2 of the FSANZ proposal.

The Application Satisfies FSANZ’ Stated Objectives to Varying a Food Labeling Standard. NFPA refers to the FSANZ “objectives” in developing or varying labeling: (1) to protect the public health and safety; (2) the provision of adequate information relating to food to enable consumers to make informed choices; and (3) the prevention of misleading or deceptive conduct. FSANZ also notes that food standards must take into consideration: (1) risk analysis using the best available scientific evidence; (2) the promotion of consistency between international and domestic standards; (3) the desirability of an efficient and internationally competitive food industry; and (4) the promotion of fair-trading in food. NFPA asserts that providing for flexibility in labeling format, as requested by A479 meets FSANZ legislative objectives for food standards. In addition, providing for flexibility in format would help to enhance international consistency, promote fair trade, and help to build an internationally competitive food industry.

The Application Meets the Needs of Consumers. NFPA agrees that nutrition labeling can be an important tool for consumers and that labeling information should be generally consistent, including but not limited to the core nutrition information in an easy to read format. However, consumers interested in nutrition information are unlikely to be confused by minor variations in format. In fact, allowing manufacturers the flexibility to “borrow” some of the elements of other national requirements (such as declaration of additional nutrients) may serve to enhance the amount of information voluntarily provided to consumers by food manufacturers.

Providing Flexibility Would be Consistent with International Trade Obligations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) encourages the recognition of equivalence when technical measures achieve the same regulatory objectives. Likewise, the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures mandates the recognition of equivalence when measures can achieve the identified appropriate level of protection. It is clear that identical policy objectives can be achieved through slight variations in label formatting. NFPA believes that blocking market access for minor inconsistencies in formatting requirements cannot be justified under WTO rules.

International and Domestic Food Industry Would Benefit by Increased Flexibility. FSANZ correctly indicates that the overseas food industry and the Australian and New Zealand companies that import food would benefit from increased flexibility because companies would not, in many cases, be required to re-label products for Australia and New Zealand . FSANZ concludes that companies producing foods domestically would not benefit. NFPA respectfully disagrees. Australia and New Zealand are a significant exporter of processed food products; Australia alone exports over $1.5 billion consumer oriented food products to the U.S. where mandatory nutrition labeling is also in place. Allowing flexibility in the FSANZ standards would allow domestic exporters market in Australia and New Zealand food products that may be labeled for export markets but, which, for one reason or another, are not exported. These exporters would not face the expense of two additional labels. Furthermore, it would facilitate trade for those companies that are dependent upon imported ingredients for their processed products and, likely, increase sourcing options for domestic companies.

Flexibility in Formatting in Other Markets. As noted by FSANZ , U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated nutrition labeling in 1994 and requires a “Nutrition Facts” panel, in specified format, for almost all processed food products. FDA regulations require information on specific nutrients and nutrient amounts must be expressed in grams per standardized reference serving and as percentage of daily values. FDA permits the declaration of additional nutrients on a voluntary basis. FDA also provides for alternative formats in certain situations including a shortened format, a footnote to side format, an aggregate label, bilingual format, dual declarations (to provide information on food as consumed), a simplified format, a tabular display, and a linear display. In addition, FDA rules allow for certain nutrients that are absent in the food to be omitted from declaration. This flexibility helps to accommodate specific packaging and market needs while providing equivalent information on the nutrition content of the food product.

Likewise, Canada mandates a nutrition facts panel that is similar to (but not the same as) that of the U.S. and provides for several variations on the standard format. These accommodate a narrower panel, a horizontal format, and a simplified format. In addition, the Canadian label format can accommodate voluntary information that is not mandated by national requirements. The accommodation for voluntary information allows exporters from the U.S. and Canada to utilize the same label in both countries for many food products.

While NFPA would welcome more opportunity for labeling flexibility in both the U.S. and Canada, these examples demonstrate existing formatting options in markets that trade with Australia and New Zealand.


NFPA supports Option 2 in A479. NFPA believes that a harmonized approach to nutrition labeling will facilitate trade in food products. Minor formatting differences in nutrition labeling are not relevant to the safety or quality of the food product and can provide consumers with identical core nutrition information. Approval of A479 to allow increased flexibility in label formatting for food products in the Australia and New Zealand will be consistent with WTO commitments and will facilitate trade. This positive example by FSANZ may also encourage other nations to move toward a more harmonized approach to technical labeling requirements that better recognize the operational realities of a global marketplace.

Thank you for consideration of these comments.


John R. Cady

President and CEO

National Food Processors Association