Enabling industry to take advantage of market opportunities and maximise exports, recent regulations provide opportunities to develop food products that can carry health claims, and for a health claim to be exclusively used by the holder of validated scientific evidence.
The Food Standards Code
Australia and New Zealand work closely together to develop joint food standards. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) developed a standard for nutrition and health claims on food labels and in food advertisements as part of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
Standard 1.2.7 was developed by FSANZ after consultation with food manufacturers, health professionals and government in New Zealand and Australia. The standard defines the requirements for making a health claim on a food product.
About Standard 1.2.7
Under this standard, a health claim is any representation in food labelling or advertising that links the food to a health effect. For example, 'Calcium is good for strong bones' is a health claim.
Standard 1.2.7 applies to food sold in Australia and New Zealand. If you produce food in New Zealand but export to countries other than Australia, you will need to meet New Zealand's export certification requirements and also comply with the standards of the importing country.
Foods imported into New Zealand need to comply with Standard 1.2.7.
When the regulations came into effect
Standard 1.2.7 was introduced on 18 January 2013 with a 3-year transition period for food businesses to make the changes needed for the requirements of this new standard.
As of 18 January 2016, all health and nutrition claims must now comply with Standard 1.2.7. There is a no-stock-in-trade provision, which means all food health claims used in labelling and advertisements must follow the rules.
Why the standard was introduced
Standard 1.2.7 was developed to reduce misleading health claims on food products, increase consumer confidence in health claims, and provide clarity to government bodies enforcing the standard.
The new standard provides clear and enabling provisions for truthful information for consumers, opportunities for industry innovation, and enforcement by regulatory authorities. MPI has the responsibility for enforcement of the standard in New Zealand.
Having consistent trans-Tasman guidance assists trade of food products between New Zealand and Australia, and will support consistent implementation of the standard by businesses. This will not only reduce misleading and deceptive health claims about food being made, but will also increase consumer confidence in health claims.
Nutrition content claims
Nutrition content claims provide infromation about the presence, absence or level of nutrients or biologically active substances in foods. For example, 'a good source of vitamin C' or 'gluten free'.
Health claims are voluntary statements on food labels and advertising that refer to a relationship between a food and health.
There are 2 types of health claims:
- General level health claims – these refer to a nutrient or substance in a food and its effect on health. For example, 'Calcium is good for bones'. General level health claims do not refer to a serious disease or a biomarker of a serious disease.
- High level health claims – these 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 and vitamin D may reduce the risk of osteoporosis'.
Robust scientific evidence for health claims
As long as food meets specific nutritional criteria, you can make a general level health claim on a food label or advertisement if it is based on one of more than 200 food health relationships approved by FSANZ, or you can apply to FSANZ to add a new food-health relationship to the pre-approved list.
Alternatively, if you want a new health claim to be exclusively used by the holder of the validated scientific evidence base that supports the claim, you can self-substantiate, or provide evidence for, the claim on a food product, without this being 'preapproved' by FSANZ. This opportunity to self-substantiate a health claim encourages investment in product development to take advantage of market opportunities and maximise the export potential of your value added food product.
Requirements for self-substantiation of health claims
Self-substantiation of a health claim requires robust scientific evidence of the food health relationship in the food product. This food health relationship must be demonstrated to a level where regulatory approval in international markets is possible.
Self-substantiation is only available for general level health claims (claims that do not relate to diseases or serious illnesses).
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