Sue's Blog

One third mistrust food labels in Australia


One in three Australians do not trust the information on food labels, according to recent government survey.

The national food regulator FSANZ released a 149 page survey in October 2016 called “Food Labelling Use and Understanding in Australia and New Zealand”.

It was an online study of 1,396 Australians and 1,015 New Zealanders.

Approximately 67% of Australians and 77% of New Zealanders somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement: Generally speaking I trust the information on food labels.

Putting this another way, the information on food labels was NOT trusted by fully one third of Australian respondents and one quarter of NZ respondents.

When making a food purchase for the first time, around 70% of Australian consumers reported using the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) and the statement of ingredients.

A related consumer attitudes survey done by FSANZ in 2008 found that 26% of people did not trust the information on labels, although 48% did. That is, 35% of those responding did not trust the information.

The same survey found that 61% of Australians lacked confidence in organisations providing regulation and monitoring of the food supply.

The surveys are not strictly comparable, but there is certainly no evidence of an improvement in confidence.

The most robust and comprehensive survey in this area was done in 2008 with 100,000 respondents.

Among other consumer findings at that time:

•    87% are worried about the mental health and behavioural effects of food chemicals on children
•    80% are reading more labels than they used to because they worry about what’s in the foods
•    79% don’t always trust the claims food manufacturers put on their labels
•    78% are making a real effort to avoid foods that contain preservatives, artificial colours and flavours
•    73% are concerned that food authorities are not doing enough to regulate what food manufacturers can and can’t put in the foods

Our consumer concerns are not the minority view and deserve to be addressed by improved government action.

The Real Food Trend, a survey of over 100,000 consumers by Meat & Livestock Australia (2008) 
Consumer attitudes survey (2008) 
Consumer label survey (2016)