Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: Standard 1.2.7, or Health and Nutrition Claims Standard
Location: Australia and New Zealand
Food policy category: Diet and nutrition
How it works
There are four types of messages governed by this law: nutrition content claims, general level health claims, high level health claims, and endorsements. These claims may be placed on food products or used in advertisements for those products.
Nutrition content claims are about the presence or absence and amount of a substance in a food product. For example, a nutrition content claim might declare a product to be a good source of a particular nutrient (such as fiber, calcium, vitamin A, etc.) or declare that a product is low in a particular nutrient (such as fat or sodium). The standard designates the minimum or maximum amounts of nutrients or other substances that must be present in the food in order to make these types of claims.
For example, in order to declare a food product an “excellent source” of fiber, the product must contain at least 7 grams of fiber per serving. In order to label a food as “low fat,” the product must contain no more than 3 grams of fat for every 100 grams of the food.
General level health claims state that a substance in a food or a property of food has a general effect on health, such as, “calcium promotes healthy bones and teeth.” In order to make a general level health claim about a product, that product must at least meet the requirement for making a nutrition content claim.
For example, in order to label a product with the phrase, “calcium is necessary for normal bone and teeth structure,” the product must meet the requirement for making a nutrition content claim about calcium.
High level health claims are claims about a food’s ability to reduce one’s risk of serious diseases. An example would be, “Diets high in calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in people over 65.” The standard contains more specific requirements for making high level health claims. In order to make the aforementioned claim about preventing osteoporosis, a food must contain at least 290 mg of calcium per serving.
If a company wants to make a general level health claim that has not been pre-approved by FSANZ, it can collect evidence to substantiate the claim themselves and notify FSANZ that it has done so. To make a high level health claim, a company must first get approval from FSANZ.
The standard also requires foods carrying health claims to meet the requirements of the nutrient profiling scoring criterion. This means that health claims are not permitted on foods that are higher in saturated fat, sugar, or salt. The agency’s nutrient profiling scoring criterion determines whether a food is eligible make a health claim.
The standard also forbids companies from labeling their food products with claims that they can prevent or cure diseases, or claims that compare those food products to other health products such as medicines or supplements.
Finally, the standard governs when companies are allowed to use endorsements in marketing their products. Endorsements are nutrition content claims or health claims approved by an endorsing body. The standard requires that endorsing bodies be non-profits with nutrition- or health-related purposes, that they are free from influence by the food company, and that they give permission for the company to use their endorsement.
Progress to date
In January of 2016, the law’s transitional period ended. Since it was passed in 2013, the standard has been amended twice to change its content.
First, a permission was added to make nutrition content claims about the gluten content of foods containing alcohol. Second, the trademarked components of the Health Star Rating symbol were declared exempt from the standard’s requirements. The Health Star Rating is a front-of-pack labelling system developed by the Australian government that is derived from an assessment of the nutrient profile of the food.
Why the program is important
A recent global survey found that only 63 percent of consumers trust the health claims made on food and beverage packages, suggesting that there is need for stricter regulation of those types of claims.
The standard ensures that all health claims must be supported by a systematic review of the scientific literature which assesses the totality of evidence. Research has shown that a single study is much less reliable than a consensus of multiple studies.
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