New food label standards developed to reduce the use of misleading and false food claims are now officially compulsory.
Introduced on January 18, 2013 by the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, companies were given three years to adopt the new standard -- meaning now it's show time.
So what does the new Standard 1.2.7 mean to everyday consumers?
Essentially, the standard requires food businesses to verify any nutrition and health claims such as ‘low in fat’ and ‘good source of calcium’, so consumers can find food products which actually live up to their claim.
“It means that there are fairly strict requirements about when you can make these claims,” Food Standards Australia and NZ Spokeswoman Lorraine Haase told The Huffington Post Australia.
“Businesses have to have a certain level of evidence that the enforcement agencies can then go and check to make sure that it’s right.”
So, what is the difference between nutrition and health claims?
Nutrition content claims are about the content of certain nutrients or substances (i.e. protein, iron, B12).
"A nutrition claim is something like 'contains calcium'," Haase said.
A health claim, on the other hand, refers to a relationship between the food product and health.
These health claims are then broken into general level health claims (for example, 'calcium is good for bones and teeth') and high-level health claims ('high calcium diets may reduce the risk of osteoporosis').
A nutrition and health claim may be all well and good -- but the food business must provide evidence that supports these claims.
“Really, the bottom line for consumers is -- for these high-level health claims and general level health claims -- there has to be scientific evidence to support them,” Haase said.
“And if there isn't, the enforcement agencies can check on that, and if they don’t have the scientific evidence to support them, they can take action.”
Here are some common nutrition claims you have probably seen while food shopping:
- "High In, Rich In, Excellent Source Of"
- "Good Source Of, Contains, Provides"
- "More, Fortified, Enriched, Added, Extra Plus"
- "Lean, Extra Lean"
Arguably the most valuable take-away points from the new standard is that it will not only help consumers recognise (and avoid) food products that have unsubstantiated and misleading claims, but the standard will also encourage the food industry to give consumers a wider range of healthy food choices.