Marketing can make any food product sound amazing by filling the product packaging with appealing claims and statements. Often these claims are extremely misleading and make the item sound far healthier than it actually is. This therefore causes a lot of confusion for people who are trying to make better choices. There are certain regulations in place to limit what companies can put on labels but many companies are still very clever with their wording. Fortunately, a new standard will restrict companies even further.
A new food standard to regulate nutrition content claims and health claims on food labels and in advertisements became law on 18 January 2013. Food businesses must comply with the new standard (Standard 1.2.7) from 18 January 2016.
Nutrition content claims are voluntary statements that a food business may use on their labelling. They are used to highlight the positives of the product and advertise the product in a way that will ideally increase sales.
Nutrition content claims are claims about the content of certain nutrients or substances in a food, such as ‘low in fat’ or ‘good source of calcium’. These claims will need to meet certain criteria set out in the Standard. For example, with a ‘good source of calcium’ claim, the food will need to contain more than the amount of calcium specified in the Standard.
Health claims are used to point out the relationship that the food has on health. There are two different types of health claims. The claims still have to be fairly general and cannot make out that that particular product alone will have significant effects on health.
General level health claims refer to a nutrient or substance in a food and its effect on a health function. They must not refer to a serious disease or to a biomarker of a serious disease. For example: calcium is good for bones and teeth.
High level health claims refer to a nutrient or substance in a food and its relationship to a serious disease or to a biomarker of a serious disease. For example: Diets high in calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in people 65 years and over. An example of a biomarker health claim is: Phytosterols may reduce blood cholesterol.
All claims must be supported by scientific evidence and either be one of FSANZ pre-approved claims or be proven by the business through conducting their own research/experiments and presenting the evidence to FSANZ for approval. There are over 200 claims already approved by FSANZ.
Food-health relationships derived from health claims approved in the European Union, Canada and the USA have been considered for inclusion in the Standard. Health claims will only be permitted on foods that meet the nutrient profiling scoring criterion (NPSC). For example, health claims will not be allowed on foods high in saturated fat, sugar or salt.
The new standard 1.2.7 will hopefully help to clear up a lot of confusion for people by:
- Reducing the risk of misleading and deceptive claims about food.
- Expanding the range of permitted health claims.
- Encouraging industry to innovate, giving consumers a wider range of healthy food choices.
- Providing clarity for the jurisdictions enforcing the Standard.