Food Ministers’ Meeting communiqué – 1 December 2023

Communiqué of outcomes from the Food Ministers’ Meeting held on 1 December 2023.

The Food Ministers’ Meeting (FMM) met on Friday 1 December 2023 via video conference to consider food regulation and policy matters. The FMM is chaired by the Hon Ged Kearney MP and comprises all Australian and New Zealand Ministers responsible for food. The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Board Chair and CEO attended the meeting as observers.

Key outcomes from the meeting

Defining added sugars for claims

Today Ministers agreed to inform the FSANZ Board, in relation to Proposal P1062, the FMM will not request a review of the draft standard which will incorporate a definition of added sugars into the Food Standards Code. This will support work on ensuring ‘no added sugar’ claims align with dietary guidelines. Following FSANZ gazettal there will be a 4-year transition period for the changes to claim conditions for ‘no added sugar(s)’ and ‘unsweetened’ nutrition content claims (and synonyms).

Ministers noted that whilst some infant foods will be captured by changes made in Proposal P1062, issues remain in ensuring consumers have the information they need to make healthy choices when buying infant foods and the composition of infant food is held to standards which ensure they meet the public expectations.

Ministers have committed to undertake further work to address these issues and to consider them out of session.

Priority 3 system modernisation update

Today Ministers agreed to the Project Plan for the next phase of work for modernising the Food Regulatory System and noted the forecast engagement and decision points to enable completion of the project.

Stakeholder consultation is anticipated in the first half of 2024. Stakeholders who are subscribed to receive updates on food regulatory matters will be updated on stakeholder engagement opportunities.

Ministers will be provided an update on the progress of implementation in mid-2024.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (FSANZ Act) review – Agreement to public consultation

Following earlier agreement from Food Ministers to further explore 27 reform concepts for the FSANZ Act and FSANZ operations, Ministers today noted the Australian Government will undertake public consultation on a draft Impact Analysis to seek public feedback on these concepts before making final decisions in 2024 on a model of reform.

The public consultation is anticipated to take place in February/March 2024, Stakeholders will be invited to submit feedback on the Impact Analysis via the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care’s online Consultation Hub. Stakeholders who are subscribed to receive updates on food regulatory matters will be updated once the consultation opens.

Health Star Rating (HSR) – Year 3 monitoring plan

Today Ministers were provided with the plan for monitoring the uptake for the HSR being displayed on intended products against targets set by ministers in 2020. A report outlining the findings of the Year 3 monitoring will be presented to Ministers in early 2024.

Ministers noted their previous decision that if uptake did not reach the 2025 target ministers would consider mandating the system.

Commercial foods for infants and young children

Today Ministers were presented an issues paper on the improvement of commercial foods for infants and toddlers and agreed to the Statement of the Problem outlined: Commercial foods for infants and young children are poorly aligned with some aspects of the Australian and New Zealand Infant and Toddler Feeding Guidelines. These commercial foods are often high in sugar (both infant and young child foods), sodium (young child foods only) and either do not contain iron-rich ingredients or are too low in iron to make a claim (both infant and young child foods). Labelling does not support carers to make informed choices for infants and young children due to product naming not always accurately reflecting ingredients. There are also concerns the texture of commercial infant foods typically do not match developmental progression in feeding.

The issues paper will be published on the food regulation website.

Ministers agreed these are important issues to consider, as foods in early childhood shape health for life. Ministers asked officials to progress a consultation paper as a matter of priority on options to improve commercial foods for infants and children in Australia and New Zealand in the first quarter of 2024.

Alcohol labelling

Ministers were provided with an update on the progress of proposals P1049 Carbohydrate and sugar claims on alcoholic beverages and P1059 Energy labelling on alcoholic beverages.

Ministers noted the harms from excessive alcohol consumption in Australia and New Zealand.

Ministers requested FSANZ to undertake further consumer research to better understand whether carbohydrate and sugar claims on alcoholic beverages are misleading consumers and influencing purchasing decisions and to inform consideration of disqualifying criteria or other potential options.

This research will inform Ministers to make a decision on a potential addendum to the Ministerial Policy Guidelines on Nutrition, Health and Related Claims, based on the available evidence.

Next meeting

Ministers with responsibility for food will meet again in the first half of 2024.

Visit the food regulation website for further information on food regulation activities.

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