The country's food safety authority has concluded that the definition of 'wholegrain' should be amended to reflect processing techniques and give bread manufacturers greater opportunity to promote the nutritional value of their products.
Currently only a few breakfast cereals and crispbreads but virtually no breads qualify as 'wholegrain foods'.
The grains research body BRI Australia Ltd petitioned Food Standards Australia New Zealand in 2001 for changes to the current definition of wholegrain, calling it 'too narrow, inconsistent with international practice and severely limiting for food manufacturers and potentially misleading for consumers'.
A draft assessment of the proposed changes by the food agency concluded this week that it is 'appropriate' to amend the definition to include processing techniques that retain all of the original grain components and to allow for dehulling.
Wholegrain is currently defined as 'the unmilled products of a single cereal or mixture of cereals'.
The definition proposed by BRI would widen the term to encompass the intact grain, dehulled grain, ground grain, cracked grain or flaked grains and include wholemeal. It could be applied to any foods made from grains such as breads, breakfast cereals, pasta, biscuits, oats, rice and grain-based snack foods.
This is "consistent with the growing awareness of the positive nutritional benefits that can be achieved through increased consumption of whole grains, and the range of foods that can be included in the diet to obtain these benefits", said FSANZ.
There is no international definition of 'wholegrain' although one has been established by the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC).
However the US Food and Drug Administration allows food manufacturers to make a health claim on wholegrain food products stating that they may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and some cancers.
Foods making this claim must contain 51 per cent or more of wholegrain ingredients (bran, germ and endosperm) by weight per reference amount, with dietary fibre of 2.3g per 50g. The food must also be low in fat.
However BRI's request for 'whole grain' labelling claims, such as 'Good source of whole grains' and 'Source of whole grains', were considered to be beyond the scope of application.