The new regulations relating to the Labelling and Advertising of
Foodstuffs, No R 146 of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants
Act, 1972 (Act 54 of 1972), which was implemented on 1 March 2012,
aims to create a specific standard for informing consumers about
the ingredients in foodstuffs. All labels and advertising will have
to be presented in the same format, which will hopefully stem the
amount of 'misleading' claims made in relation to
foodstuffs. For example, the regulations will curb statements
relating to sugar where manufacturers would label a product as
'no sugar added' but still contains sugars - just not in
the form of added table sugar. This statement alone has caused
considerable confusion amongst consumers who often misinterpret
this statement as meaning the product is sugar free.
This is also intended to make it easier for consumers to compare
different products and the new labelling will make it easier for
consumers to identify nutritional information of products as well
as allergens that the products may contain.
Broadly, the regulations state that food labels and advertisements
may no longer contain items on their labels which create the
impression that the food is endorsed by a health practitioner, or
manufactured by or in accordance with recommendations by an
organisation or in some way provides nutrition. Labels are also
restricted in the use of certain terms such as 'healthy'
and 'nutritious' or similar words and claims relating to
nutrition, including that a foodstuff may have medicinal
However, many manufacturers are expressing frustration in complying
with the new laws. This includes the nutritional information
format, specifically the inclusion of dietary fibre method of
analysis and the scientific determination of serving size, which
cannot simply be the capacity of the packaging. In addition, many
products need to accommodate other legislation in conjunction with
R146, such as the Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries
regulations, which in some cases outweigh the stipulations of
Manufacturers are also finding ingredient statements and the
requirements they need to meet confusing, as well as what claims
can be made about foodstuffs and what criteria need to be taken
into account when it comes to 'misleading' descriptions
with words such as 'pure', 'natural',
'hand-made', 'fresh', 'original'
'finest' and so forth.
It has also been pointed out that some manufacturers are having
problems in complying to the laws with imported products, which
cater to many markets, as the layout requirements are similar, but
not the same as those used in other areas around the world. There
is also the question of trademarks as some product names may be in
breach of R146.
Furthermore, in the past, two similar products may have
differentiated themselves by focusing on different strengths
inherent in both products. This can no longer be done. A product
may not tout the fact that, for instance, additional nutritional
elements have been added to it. Consumers will actively have to
compare products to see which is higher in content of the
nutritional ingredients they want.
This also means that manufacturers of a product such as milk will
no longer be able to claim that it may be good to strengthen bones,
but may simply state that it naturally contains calcium.
Manufacturers will also not be able to disclose whether a product
contains microorganisms or compounds such as probiotics.
Additionally, from the manufacturers point of view, it will not be
compulsory for food manufacturers to publish a typical nutritional
information table and for those that do, they must be able to
substantiate any labelling info within 48 hours of being requested
to do so, which many believe may see manufacturers leaving off
important information regarding their products ingredients.
The regulations are however a step in the right direction towards
creating a better and healthier purchasing environment for
consumers. Even though the regulations will undoubtedly cause some
confusion and frustration initially, the right legal advice should
make it easier they will be easy to negotiate and will lead towards
increased clarity for shoppers.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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