The claimed independence of a major alternative protein lobby group has come under fire again.
Australian red meat industries have claimed Melbourne-based Food Frontier was the spokesperson for anti-meat activists, which the group has repeatedly denied.
Food Frontier founder and chief executive Thomas King was questioned by the chair of the Senate Food Labeling Inquiry in an online hearing Monday, Senator Susan McDonald.
Mr King agreed he was a member of the controversial animal rights group Animals Australia “in my teens”, but was no longer a member.
King also agreed that Food Frontier includes in its constitution that one of its “stated goals” is to reduce the consumption of animal products.
Mr King said this particular reference “may need to be updated”.
“We don’t have an anti-breeding program,” King said.
Senator McDonald’s questions were themselves questioned by another investigator, Senator Tasmanian Greens, Peter Whish-Wilson, who believed they were irrelevant and did not inform the information gathering of the investigation of food labels.
Senator McDonald responded by saying that Senator Whish-Wilson had interviewed representatives of the farmers prior to the inquiry as to the reasons for their testimony.
“I’m just following up on your round of questions,” she said.
Food Frontier was noticed after Mr King was invited to address a webinar hosted by Australia’s leading food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, earlier in the year.
This “Future of Food” webinar has been canceled.
Food Frontier promotes itself as an independent think tank and “consultant” on alternative proteins such as plant and cellular products.
Senator McDonald questioned the group’s status as a registered charity, saying major financial reports had not been submitted to maintain its registration.
Mr King said the reports were being prepared and audited, but had been delayed by COVID restrictions.
Mr King said Food Frontier is working with Australia’s leading science organization CSIRO.
The Red Meat Industry Council is investigating CSIRO’s commercial links with plant-based food startups.
Mr King said Food Frontier’s own research found that “a small minority” of companies used terms such as meat and images of cattle in their packaging.
“We are not aware of widespread confusion among consumers,” he said.
Mr King said he believed that developing a code of practice for the labeling of alternative protein foods would be more desirable than legal regulation.
He advised “be careful not to impose unnecessary red tape”.
Senator McDonald questioned his participation in the Alternative Protein Council, of which Food Frontier was a member.
Mr King said Food Frontier has provided some secretarial support to the group which also includes Sanitarium, Proform Foods, v2food, Rogue Foods and Nestle Australia, as well as Impossible Foods in the United States as members.
The investigation will continue.
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