Labelling rules and kilojoules

08 April 2016

The Victorian Government has announced plans to introduce a mandatory kilojoule labelling scheme, with new laws requiring fast food outlets to display kilojoule (kJ) contents on their menus.

The new laws will require fast-food chains with at least 20 Victorian outlets (or 50 or more outlets nationally) and large supermarkets to display kilojoule contents of all food and drink on menus, menu boards, price tags and online menus. The scheme is the latest in the continuing nationwide push to tackle Australia’s rising obesity rates, and recent findings that two thirds of Victorians are overweight or obese.

Similar legislation has already been implemented in New South Wales, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory, and was recently agreed to by the Queensland Parliament. A recent evaluation of labelling laws in New South Wales found that energy content of food being purchased reduced by about 15 per cent.

New legislation

The legislation is to be introduced in the coming months, and the laws are due to apply from mid-2017. However, laws in other states have applied to ‘standard food outlets’ (20 outlets in the state/territory, 50 nationally) which sell standard food items. In New South Wales, a ‘standard food item’ is a ready-to-eat, non pre-packaged food item, sold in servings standardised for portion and content, and listed on a menu with a price tag.

Additionally, laws in other states where the scheme is in place have required food businesses to:

  • Disclose the kilojoule content of each standard food item on all menus (this includes electronic or printed menus, posters, leaflets and websites);
  • Also legibly display on each menu and display cabinet the statement ‘The average adult daily energy intake is 8,700kJ’;
  • Have the kilojoule information adjacent or in close proximity to the name/price of the item, in the same font and size as the price (at minimum).

The scheme is likely to affect traditional fast food chains, in addition to café and coffee chains, juice bars and the like. However businesses that are exempt under the NSW Act are convenience stores, service stations, catering businesses, restaurants with no takeaway services and health care facilities selling retail food.

How businesses can prepare

Although the Victorian laws are not due to apply until mid-2017, and businesses will have 12 months to comply, it is recommended to prepare well in advance of commencement. Businesses with operations in Victoria will need to start looking at the changes that are required across their various forms of advertising and promotional material, and prepare for potentially substantial costs. Designing, updating and installing new menu boards can take a significant amount of time, in addition to updating websites, pamphlets, and developing kilojoule counts for all menu items.

Businesses looking to expand over the coming years should also consider implementing these changes early before they come within the ambit of the scheme, in order to not be burdened with significant costs later.

This article was written by Luke Dale, Partner.

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