Australia: Global health trends impacting the regulation of food and beverage labels

Last Updated: 7 February 2017
Article by Georgina Hey and Isobel Taylor

As global rates of obesity and related diseases continue to rise, consumers around the world are becoming more health conscious, and are expecting their food products to reflect their desire for healthier options. A recent Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey found that, of the 30 000 people across 60 countries surveyed, 49% consider themselves overweight and 50% are actively trying to lose weight. Consequently, consumers are seeking out healthier food choices and are increasingly considering the health and nutrition claims made by manufacturers. It is therefore concerning that only 63% of the global Nielsen respondents actually trust the health claims currently made on food and beverage packaging.

To address this lack of trust, many countries are tightening food label regulations by setting required information levels and restricting the types of health and nutrition claims manufacturers can make. The end goal being both to fix this trust issue and to assist consumers to make informed and healthier, food and beverage choices. This article looks at some examples of this trend towards increasing food and beverage labelling regulations in western countries.

Australia

The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Code sets out the legislative standards (Standards), which regulate nutritional content and health claims on food labels and in advertisements. Since the overhaul of the Standards in 2013 and the end of the three-year transition period in 2016, Australia has had a clearly defined regime in relation to such claims:

  • General level health claims (referring to a nutrient or substance in the food, or the food itself, and its effect on health, such as 'calcium for healthy bones and teeth') can be based on one of over 200 approved food-health relationships contained in the Standards, or businesses can self-substantiate a relationship to FSANZ's satisfaction. FSANZ is currently considering an additional 32 European authorised health claims to establish whether further food-health relationships based on these can be included in the Standards.
  • High level health claims (referring to the food's relationship to a serious disease or biomarker of serious disease, such as 'diets high in calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in people 65 and older') must be based on one of 13 FSANZ-approved food-health relationships. FSANZ is in the process of completing a systematic review of the currency of these claims for conformity with the most up-to-date scientific research.

In addition, manufacturers and distributers must be mindful of the Australian Consumer Law requirements against misleading and deceptive conduct given that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is increasingly sensitive to potentially misleading nutritional content and health claims, with a stated focus on these during recent times. In the past 6 months alone, the ACCC has for instance taken action over statements made for goods being '100% pure', suitable for all diabetics, 'School Canteen Approved', 'Meets School Canteen Guidelines' and '99% fruit and veg'.

The takeaway message for all companies with food and beverage products in the Australian marketplace is that they should expect an increasing level of scrutiny across any health and wellness related advertising or labeling claims.

United States of America

77% of American adults report reviewing the Nutrition Label when choosing a food product, yet the requirements and design had, until recently, not been significantly updated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for over two decades. In 2016, debate and uncertainty over 'natural' food labelling claims was extensive. Cases have arisen (some commentators say as many as 200 in the last few years) against food manufacturers in relation to 'natural' claims being used on products containing arguably unnatural items such as genetically modified foods and artificial additives. The courts have gone so far as to ask the FDA to specifically address these concerns. The issue has been so vexed, that the FDA opened the issue of 'natural' food claims for comment for an extended period.

As part of her Let's Move! campaign aimed at ending childhood obesity, former First Lady Michelle Obama championed a modernisation of the Nutrition Label so that, in her words, "you will no longer need a microscope, a calculator, or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food you're buying is actually good for our kids."

In mid-2016, the FDA announced the long-awaited amendments to the requirements for the Nutrition Facts label on food and beverages. Read more about the key changes here. Most manufacturers will have until July 2018 to comply with the new requirements, while manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to make the changes.

European Union

Since 2007, the EU has regulated the nutrition claims (such as 'low fat' or 'high fibre') and health claims (such as 'Vitamin D is necessary for bone growth and development') that manufacturers can make on food product labels and in advertising. Any such claims must be clear, accurate and based on scientific evidence, and food bearing health and nutrition claims that could mislead consumers is prohibited in the EU.

However, until recently, it was not mandatory to include the nutritional information that is typically required in a nutrition information table in many other countries. Under the new Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, since 13 December 2016, the majority of pre-packaged food must now detail the product's energy, fats, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt, by reference to a 100g/ml portion, in a clear tabulated format. Certain information (energy, fats, saturates, sugar and salt) may also be repeated on the front of the pack.

Canada

In late 2016, Health Canada finalised amendments to the requirements for its Nutrition Facts table on packaged foods, with key changes including:

  • placing greater emphasis on the serving size and calories, making them easier to find and read;
  • amending serving sizes to be more consistent across products, and to reflect more accurately the amount typically consumed in one sitting;
  • revising the % daily values based on current research, adding a new % daily value for total sugars, and adding a footnote at the bottom of the table to help consumers better understand the meaning of daily values (5% or less is a little, and 15% or more is a lot); and
  • updating the list of required vitamins and minerals to include the nutrients, such as potassium, that consumers are likely to be lacking in their diets and removing vitamins, such as A and C, for which deficiencies are now rare.

There is a five-year transition period for manufacturers to adopt the changes, so by 2021 all food labels must comply with the updated requirements.

Health Canada is now contemplating the introduction of mandatory front-of-package labelling for prepackaged foods high in "nutrients of public concern", namely sugars, sodium and saturated fat. Read more about the proposed changes here.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is also seeking feedback on various proposals to modernise other aspects of its food labelling regulations, and on a new approach to for truthful and not misleading food labelling. The consultation is available online until 28 February 2017.

Where to from here?

The examples above highlight that it is not just Australia, but western countries around the world, that are increasing the regulations with which manufacturers and distributers must comply in order to market their food and beverage products. This arises from a variety of policy considerations to encourage transparency within the food and beverage industries, to assist consumers in making healthier choices, and also to build consumer trust in food and beverage labelling. These trends can only be expected to continue as more research becomes available about the impact of what we put into our bodies on our overall health and wellbeing.

Although this does create an additional burden on manufacturers and distributers, it also gives companies an opportunity to stay ahead of the curve if they want to tap into the consumer desire for healthier options, by ensuring clarity in their labelling and packaging to build consumer trust and therefore brand loyalty and awareness. Importantly, for companies in the food and beverage industries, this scrutiny is expected to continue and so it must be considered in any product developments in the future.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Georgina Hey
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions