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AMA Vice President Professor Dobb, ABC PM, Star rating food health website

28 Feb 2014

Transcript: AMA Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb, ABC PM, 27 February 2014

Subject: Star rating food health website

MARK COLVIN: On the day the Government's star rating food health website went live, lobbyists for the food industry were telling the Minister in charge, Fiona Nash, that it was premature.

The website was taken down just hours after it went up, on the direct orders of the Chief of Staff to Senator Nash, who is the Assistant Health Minister.

Professor Geoff Dobb is a key member of a team overseeing the controversial star rating system. The team meets this Monday

Professor Dobb spoke to consumer affairs Reporter, Amy Bainbridge.

GEOFF DOBB: I think it's going to be a really pivotal meeting in order to establish the way in which this front of packet labelling system is going to be introduced in Australia.

AMY BAINBRIDGE: There was a steering committee, now there's an oversight committee. But obviously when this meeting was scheduled you probably would have expected that the website for the star food labelling system would have been up and active.

GEOFF DOBB: Indeed. The steering committee had oversight of the Government for the front of packet labelling system and that included representatives from public health organisations, consumer organisations and the food and grocery industry and the beverage council and so on.

So that steering committee had very broad representation and the food industry were intimately involved with the development of the star rating system.

AMY BAINBRIDGE: How difficult is it to move into the implementation phase without the website being active?

GEOFF DOBB: I think that's something for discussion. Some of the reasons that have been given for pulling the website down don't really stand up in my view. They include reasons such as needing to do a regulatory impact statement but, that's really difficult given that this is to be a voluntary system; the impact of it is going to depend on the extent to which it is taken up by the food and grocery industry.

AMY BAINBRIDGE: Given that this would incur significant costs for the companies, isn't it better to have more information rather than less when you proceed with quite a major project like this?

GEOFF DOBB: The reality is that food companies change their labelling and their wrapping on a regular basis and so really all that needs to be done is to incorporate this system into the natural changeover of packaging and relaunching of products.

AMY BAINBRIDGE: Do you think there is the chance that this system might actually not go ahead at all?

GEOFF DOBB: Look, there possibly is a risk, I think it would be a huge disappointment to the Australian community.

AMY BAINBRIDGE: How do you think this whole issue has been handled by the Government?

GEOFF DOBB: The handling has been to my mind a little confused and I think what we need is some clear policy direction; this is a really good initiative for the Australian community and will help to address the sustainability of healthcare costs.

MARK COLVIN: Professor Geoff Dobb with Amy Bainbridge.


28 February 2014


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                            Kirsty Waterford                02 6270 5464 /0427209753

Published: 28 Feb 2014