VEGAN FOOD PACKAGING FOCUS OF INQUIRY RECOMMENDATIONS

MEDIA RELEASE:
Feb 24, 2022.

Mandatory food labelling requirements and a far-reaching review of Australia’s food standards regulator are among nine recommendations made today (Thursday) by a Senate Inquiry into meat definitions which could have major ramifications for the plant protein and non-dairy “milk” industries.
Chairman of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee, Senator Susan McDonald, led the inquiry after fielding complaints from consumers and meat sectors about vegan food companies appropriating long-accepted animal descriptors and imagery on packaging.
Since June 2021, the committee took submissions and heard evidence from beef, poultry, and pork farmers, seafood sellers, dairy companies, consumer advocates and plant-protein sector representatives including global brands Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.
Senator McDonald said the inquiry had made it abundantly clear that regulation was needed to help consumers choose food and to protect the intellectual property of Australia’s multi-billion-dollar meat, dairy and seafood industries, especially with lab-grown meat set to enter markets in coming years.
“Consumers say they are confused by plant products featuring names like ‘chicken’, ‘beef’ or ‘prawns’ with pictures of those animals on the packaging and the words ‘plant based’ or ‘meat free’ printed in much smaller letters,” she said.
“This is especially true for people with impaired sight, who are dyslexic, who have English as a second language or who have a disability.
“It can even apply to people who are simply in a hurry with a screaming child on their hip grabbing a packet with a chicken on it for the family’s dinner and realising when they get home that it’s not chicken at all.
“No one likes to see more regulation but it is the Committee’s view that labelling does need to clearly differentiate between plant proteins and products long associated with coming from animals.”
Current labelling of plant proteins is allowed under Food Standards Australia New Zealand rules but this is the subject of some of the recommendations.
“We are advising that a current review being undertaken of FSANZ also include reversing its allowance of plant proteins and non-dairy milks to use animal descriptors,” said Senator McDonald.
“We also recommend that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission act on concerns plant proteins are placed too close to animal proteins in stores.”
Senator McDonald reiterated her support for the plant-protein industry, noting the Committee also recommended more government support for expanding the sector.
“Australian pulse and veggie farmers can tap into the plant-protein market, so it makes no sense for people to frame this inquiry as somehow wanting to cripple that industry or attack vegans and vegetarians,” she said.
“All we’re suggesting is that, like margarine makers did by choosing a name that didn’t contain butter, plant protein marketers come up with ways to promote their products without trading on animal names and imagery.
“The same goes for cultured meat. When that eventually hits the market, it needs to be clearly discernible from meat grown in a paddock, so we are recommending the government get involved now in regulating meat definitions.”
The full report and list of recommendations is available at https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/DefinitionsofMeat/Report

ENDS
Contact: Julian Tomlinson, ph 0421 059 187.

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Recommendation 1

2.57

The committee recommends the Australian Government develops a mandatory regulatory framework for the labelling of plant-based protein products, in consultation with representatives from the traditional and plant-based protein sectors, food service industry and retailers.

Recommendation 2

2.60

The committee recommends the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reviews the placement of plant-based protein products in retailers’ stores, including online platforms.

Recommendation 3

2.63

The committee recommends the Australian Government ensures the application of a mandatory regulatory framework is applicable to cultured meat products, in preparation for the introduction of those products onto the Australian market.

Recommendation 4

3.56

The committee recommends that, as part of its current review and modernisation of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1999, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) initiate a review in consultation with industry, of section 1.1.1—13(4) of the FSANZ Code and recommend exempting its application to named meat, seafood and dairy category brands.

Recommendation 5

3.58

The committee recommends, on conclusion and application of the review of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Code, that Food Standards Australia New Zealand develops guidelines to inform labelling and marketing practices for manufacturers of plant-based protein products.

Recommendation 6

4.42

The committee recommends the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission develops a National Information Standard that defines and restricts the use of meat category brands to animal protein products. This standard should include guidance on the use of livestock imagery for labelling and marketing of plant-based protein products.

Recommendation 7

5.37

The committee recommends the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, examines measures to:

strengthen the plant-based protein product sector’s capacity to source its products from Australian grown produce; and

support investment opportunities into the Australian plant-based alternative product sector’s manufacturing infrastructure to foster competitiveness and market opportunities on the international market.

Recommendation 8

5.38

The committee recommends the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment ensures that the plant-based protein product sector is supported to contribute to the Ag2030 goal of achieving a $100 billion agricultural sector by 2030.

Recommendation 9

6.47

The committee recommends that, as part of its review of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1999, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), initiates consultations with stakeholders about amending the FSANZ Code to include:

a definition of plant-based protein products; and

minimum compositional requirements for plant-based protein products.