Reproduced with permission of Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Food Standards Australia New Zealand today called for public comment into a major new food standard for Nutrition, Health and Related Claims. This follows a recent policy guideline by the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council that foreshadows allowing health claims on food labels.
This is the one of the biggest changes to food labelling in Australia and New Zealand that we have seen in recent years and it is vital that consumers, industry and health professionals contribute to the development of this new food standard.
Currently high level health claims on food that refer to a serious disease or condition such as ‘reduces your risk of heart disease’ are not permitted on food. Such claims are permitted on medicines. The only exception is a claim about the benefit of mothers consuming folate and reducing the risk of neural tube defects in unborn babies.
The other type of general claims on food labels, statements such as ‘good source of calcium’ or ‘low fat’, are currently allowed. However, only a few are listed in the Food Standards Code, with others covered by an industry code of practice.
FSANZ has prepared an Initial Assessment Report which discusses a number of issues related to permitting these types of claims. We are seeking answers to three key questions. Should the situation stay as it is with high level health claims not permitted and general claims in an industry code of practice? Should the high level claims be in a standard and general level claims be covered by a guideline? Should both high level and general level claims be covered in a single food standard?
The development process for the proposed standard includes two rounds of public consultation. FSANZ staff are working closely with a Scientific Advisory Group and a Standard Development Advisory Committee that has representatives from consumer groups, health professionals, enforcement agencies and the food industry. The first round of public consultation will start on 10 August and will continue until 13 October 2004. The second round of consultation on a draft standard should commence in late May 2005 and the final standard is due to be completed by December 2005.
We appreciate that not everyone will have the time to make detailed submissions. So, for the first time, we have developed a guide to assist people to make submissions. We will also be holding a series of stakeholder briefings, in Sydney on 18 August, Melbourne on 20 August, Wellington on 3 September and Auckland on 7 September 2004.
Copies of the Initial Assessment Report and Submitters’ Response Booklet, as well as details of the stakeholder briefings, can be found on the FSANZ website at www.foodstandards.gov.au or obtained by calling the Information Officer in Australia on (02) 6271 2241 or in New Zealand on (04) 473 9942 or emailing [email protected].