A new standard which regulates the way nutrition content and health claims are made on food labels and in advertisements will become law on 18 January 2013.
Once the standard is in effect, nutrition content and health claims can only be made in relation to a food if that food meets certain eligibility criteria.
The new standard (Standard 1.2.7 Nutrition, Health and Related Claims) aims to reduce the risk of misleading and deceptive claims about food, expand the range of permitted health claims which can be made about certain products and encourage the food industry to give consumers a wider range of healthy and informed food choices.
Businesses will have a three year transitional period in which to ensure that their labels and advertisements are fully compliant with the new standard. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has indicated that there will be no additional allowances for stock in trade following the expiry of the transitional period.
We recommend that businesses start planning now for the transition and consider new advertising and packaging in the context of the new standard.
Importantly, the new standard and the existing transitional standard (Standard 1.1A.2) will operate concurrently for a period of three years. Businesses can choose to rely on the new standard or the transitional standard (but not both). Businesses who find that the new standard permits them to make desirable claims that they could not previously make in relation to their products, may wish to immediately start making claims in accordance with the new standard.
Health claims are currently regulated by the transitional standard, which generally prohibits the making of certain types of health claims on food labels and in advertising. The new standard will allow businesses to make general and high level claims about the relationship between food and health provided that such claims are backed by scientific evidence.
The changes to the way in which nutrition claims are made are designed to more closely align mandatory standards with the voluntary Code of Practice on Nutrient Claims which is currently administered by the Australian Food and Grocery Council.
The new standard will regulate the voluntary claims that can be made about the nutritional content of food (for example “low in fat”) as well as claims that can be made about the relationship between food and health (for example “contains calcium for healthy bones”). The definition of “claim” will also be amended to broadly refer to an “express or implied” statement, representation, design or information in relation to a food or property of food - which makes it clear that the overall representation conveyed by the labelling and advertising will always need to be considered.
The standard regulates three specific types of claims:
In addition, health claims (general or high level):
While FSANZ has considered health claims permitted in other countries, it has not attempted to specifically regulate health claims about probiotics or “fat free” or “percentage fat-fee” claims in the new standard.
Note that therapeutic claims in relation to foods (i.e. a reference to the prevention, diagnosis, cure or alleviation of a disease, disorder or condition) continue to be prohibited under the new standard.
Endorsements on food packaging or advertisements (i.e. nutrition content claim or health claim made with the permission of an endorsing body) are also permitted, provided the endorsing body is not related to, and is independent from, the food supplier and the endorsement otherwise complies with the requirements set out in the new standard.
The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.