New food label rules force makers to prove claims

By Abby Gillies

Australian and New Zealand ministers responsible for the regulation of food agreed to  new standards to regulate nutrition and health content claims on labels and in advertisements. Photo / Thinkstock
Australian and New Zealand ministers responsible for the regulation of food agreed to new standards to regulate nutrition and health content claims on labels and in advertisements. Photo / Thinkstock

Misleading nutrition and health claims about food will be stopped under new regulations on labelling.

Australian and New Zealand ministers responsible for the regulation of food this month agreed to the new standards to regulate nutrition and health content claims on food labels and in advertisements.

The changes mean claims made by manufacturers, which can range from the nutritional, such as "low fat" or "high fibre", to general health claims, "calcium is good for healthy bones and teeth", to the high level, "calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis" they must back them up with evidence. Anyone making such claims must be able to provide scientific proof and meet specific criteria.

Those making high-level health claims would also first need to get pre-approved by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) to do so. The changes come after more than a decade of work.

The move would benefit consumers and manufacturers by providing a greater level of transparency, said Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich.

"Food manufacturers need clear rules around what they can and cannot say on food labels.

"Not only will it help ensure consumers to have greater confidence that health claims are evidence-based, it also supports manufacturers in making claims on innovative products for important export markets."

Kiwi producers are largely responsible regarding food labelling, but the regulations would prevent claims potentially spiralling to the outlandish levels of some overseas producers from happening here.

One example was a packet of dates imported from the Middle East which said they had proven medical benefits including helping people suffering from colds and fever, reducing negative effects of alcohol intoxication and for pregnant women, strengthen the muscles to assist in the dilation during delivery.

Food businesses will have three years to make the transition to meet the standards.

Food Safety Authority New Zealand will work with the industry, public health, and consumers on a range of issues over the regulations, including refining the nutrient criteria.

FGC believes that the provision of a three-year transition period gives industry the opportunity to adjust food labels over time to come into compliance.

- APNZ

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