Front-of-Pack Labelling and International Trade Law: Revisiting the Health Star Rating System
46 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2020 Last revised: 3 Dec 2020
Date Written: May 5, 2020
The Western world is suffering from an ‘obesity epidemic’, partly attributable to international trade. International trade has contributed to changes in diet, increases in pre-packaged food (rich in sugar and salt), and an upsurge in obesity rates and non-communicable diseases. To nudge consumers towards healthier choices, many countries have introduced interpretative front-of-pack (FoP) schemes for food and beverages.
In 2014, Australia and New Zealand implemented the Health Star Rating (HSR) system. One of the major flaws of this system is that it is voluntary. Yet, if made mandatory, the HSR system would have a direct impact on the product labeling of international companies selling in Australia and New Zealand. It would, therefore, be more likely to face international scrutiny.
In this article we propose that the HSR be made mandatory. Thereafter we analyse the compliance of a mandatory HSR system with international trade law. We conclude that Australia and New Zealand would need to narrowly frame their objectives for making the system mandatory, backed by evidence. In doing so, Australia and New Zealand would likely have to recognize the FoP systems of some other jurisdictions.
Keywords: Front-of-Package Labelling, Food Law, Public Health, Consumer Protection, International Trade Law, WTO
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