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
 
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”

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
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.