In Australia, all food labels must conform to the labelling provisions of the national Food Standards Code.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) develops this code and state authorities, like the NSW Food Authority, enforce it locally. The Authority also administers the Food Act 2003 (NSW), including sections relating to the provision of information that can mislead the consumer.
Some information must be included on food labels
The Food Standards Code states that all food labels must identify the following information:
- Name and/or description of the food
- Identification of the ‘lot’ number (food recall information)
- Name and Australian street address of the supplier of food (food recall information)
- List of ingredients
- Date mark
- Nutrition information panel (NIP)
- Country of origin of the food
- Warning and advisory statements
Fast & snack food outlets
Larger chains of standard food outlets in NSW must now display kJ (energy) information for their standard items on menu boards, letterbox menus and at point of sale.
The Authority is not responsible for some labelling information
The Authority is not responsible for:
- the presence and accuracy of total weights and measures statements (this is the NSW Office of Fair Trading) except for percentage ingredient statements
- recycling codes
- pet food
- therapeutic products registered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (including dietary aids and supplements)
Some foods don't have labels
Some food offered for sale or for catering is exempt from these general labelling requirements. Such exemptions apply if the food is:
- in an ‘inner’ package, not designed for sale without the outer package
- made and packaged on the premises from which it is sold, eg in a deli
- packaged in the presence of the purchaser
- whole or cut fruit and vegetables, in a package which displays the nature and the quality of the food except for sprouting seeds
- delivered packaged and ready for consumption at the order of the consumer, eg a pizza delivery
- sold at a fundraising event
All these foods must still either display warning and advisory statements next to the product or supply this information upon a consumer request.
Food recall information
Food labels are legally required to show the name and Australian business address of the manufacturer or supplier (packer or vendor importer) plus the lot and batch number of the food (or date coding) to enable efficient food recalls. Food is recalled when it poses a possible public health and safety risk to consumers.
Food recalls in Australia are relatively uncommon. On average, there are 75 recalls a year – most of which are precautionary and voluntarily initiated by business.
The NSW Food Authority coordinates all food recalls in NSW and works with Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) who coordinates national recalls.