Coles and Woolworths Address Online Food Labelling Concerns

A recent study revealed inconsistent representations of vital product information, such as nutrition and allergen details, in the online listings of major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths. This has led to questions about the current food labelling regulations’ suitability in the age of e-commerce.

The research, named “Current food labelling practices in online supermarkets in Australia”, was published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity. Conducted by a UNSW Sydney researcher, the study examined over 22,000 product listings on Coles and Woolworths’ online platforms in 2022.

Key findings include:

– Disparity in product information display.

– Only 53% had allergen labels, and 49% showed nutrition information panels prominently.

– A mere 34% of the products had a comprehensive ingredients list, while just 14% provided a voluntary “health star rating”.

Damian Maganja, the lead researcher, highlighted that while physical store shoppers could easily access essential product information, this wasn’t always the case online. He noted the significant discrepancies in online product information provision by these supermarket giants, emphasising that this wasn’t necessarily intentional but could hinder consumers looking for specific dietary information.

In response, both Coles and Woolworths reaffirmed their commitment to presenting accurate product information online. Woolworths clarified that the study’s data was a year old and didn’t reflect their ongoing improvements. They also mentioned the availability of allergen and dietary filters on their site, pointing out that the study overlooked information presented in product images.

A Coles representative stated their commitment to online product information and encouraged customers to consult product labels directly. They also acknowledged the importance of customer feedback in enhancing information provision and highlighted the introduction of allergen and dietary filters on their platform.

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code prescribes the required information on packaged food labels. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand oversees food standards and regulations. However, currently, there’s no initiative to update the Food Standards Code to encompass online retail.

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