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Australia and NZ set to ease health claim criteria

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has published proposals that may see Australia's stringent health claims system liberalised to permit US Food and Drug Administration-styled qualified health claims.

Under the existing regime, nutrient content and health maintenance claims are allowed, but due to the tough substantiation criteria, the only authorised claim permitted is for folate as an aid in the prevention of neural tube defects in babies.

The new draft standard proposes two claim levels:

  • Claims referring to the content of the food: 'This food is high in…' or to a general level of claim for a minor health problem: 'Food X high in Y as part of a healthy diet may reduce your risk of stomach upsets.'
  • Claims describing the effect of a nutrient, vitamin, mineral or other substance in relation to serious disease. For example: 'This food is low in sodium. Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of hypertension.' (High-level claims will be subject to assessment by FSANZ).

In line with the European Union health claims agenda currently being debated, the FSANZ draft standard includes proposals for 'nutrient profiling' — limiting the amount of fat, salt or sugar for a product making a claim, and prohibits altogether claims on certain categories of food, including infant formula and alcohol products.

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