FOOD Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) released a draft food standard on nutrition, health and related claims about food for public comment.
FSANZ’s general manager food standards Melanie Fisher said the proposed standard would assist consumers to make healthier food choices and may encourage the development of healthier food products.
“Currently, nutrient content claims such as “this food is high in fibre” are allowed on food labels as are some health maintenance claims such as “calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth,” she said.
“However, there is a prohibition on ~other types of health claims, with the exception of claims about the benefit of consumption of folate by pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in their babies.”
There are two levels of claims in the proposed food standard.
Firstly general level claims either about the content of a food such as ‘this food is high in calcium’, or about a general level health claim on a non-serious disease such as ‘yoghurt high in X and Y as part of a healthy diet may reduce your risk of stomach upsets’.
Secondly there are high level health claims that describe the function of a nutrient, vitamin, mineral or other substance in relation to a serious disease such as ‘This food is low in sodium. Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of hypertension’.
There are checks and balances in the proposed standard, according to FSANZ.
All claims must be substantiated with scientific evidence and, in the case of high level claims, these will be assessed by FSANZ before the product goes on the market.
There will be criteria for foods allowed to make claims, for example, food carrying a health claim must have limits on the amount of fat, sugar and salt.
Some foods, such as infant formula and alcohol products, will not be allowed to make health claims.
There will also be specific qualifying criteria for some nutrient content claims, for example, food described as ‘low salt’ must contain no more than 120mg per 100g for solid food and there will be additional information on all content and health claims, for example, the percentage of daily nutrition needs.
The proposed standard also contains recommendations for endorsement programs (such as the Heart Foundation’s Pick the Tick), cause-related fundraisers and dietary advice.
The proposed standard is out for public comment from 28 November 2005 until 22 February 2006.
The Draft Assessment Report for Proposal P293 Nutrition, Health and Related Claims and a Guide to the new food standard are available of the FSANZ website.
The Standard is expected to be finalised in mid-2006.