I recently attended a workshop run by Australian law firm, FoodLegal, which specialises in food product and marketing compliance. Titled “Harnessing the New Health Claims Standard”, we were given an enlightening overview of the current Australian and New Zealand food laws relating to nutrition content and health claims and the opportunities available to food marketers. I highly recommend anyone else working in this area to take part in one of these workshops. For me, it was well worth a trip across the Tasman.
For those unfamiliar with nutrition and health claims in Australia and New Zealand, these are governed by Standard 1.2.7 under the Food Standards Code. Businesses have been required to comply with the standard since 2016.
There were numerous take-outs from this workshop, so to give you a taste of what we covered, I’ve highlighted ones I think might surprise some food marketers:
The new legislation provides incentives for industry to provide “healthier” food products
It can be helpful to understand the basis for these new rules. The Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criteria (NPSC) system which assesses the “healthiness” of a food or beverage product, was developed for this purpose.
Prior to Standard 1.2.7 health claims were very restricted
Although some companies find the new legislation limiting, it is worth noting that it is now possible to make any “health” claim you like (but not a therapeutic claim), providing your product meets the NPSC and you can provide sufficient scientific evidence to support it.
Don’t forget about Consumer Law
Consumer laws in New Zealand and Australia prohibit misleading and deceptive claims. We were shown several examples of products which despite being compliant with Standard 1.2.7, were taken to task for breaching consumer law.
Be careful how you present your product or brand
This includes the imagery you use. You don’t want to be pulled up for inferring something that your product isn’t. It is all about the general impression you give.
Claims like sugar free, fat free, rich in antioxidants are no longer expressly permitted
These types of claims have been commonplace in the past. Are you still making them?
The legislation extends well beyond the label
All forms of advertising are covered, including websites, sales materials, media releases, social media posts etc.
There are solutions
There are options for companies who are frustrated with not being able to make the health claims they would like. This is when advice from a specialist food lawyer will help you to understand what options are available to you.
Keep your claims focused and relevant
In my view this was the most pertinent of the points covered. When reviewing which claims you are able to make or might be able to make, it’s essential that you consider what will entice consumers to buy your product. This will be far more effective than the “shot-gun” approach that’s often used. Think about the proposition on offer and apply claims that support it.
Note: Nutrient Profile Scoring Criteria is a system that assesses the “healthiness” of a food or beverage. General foods and beverages must meet the NPSC for their category in order to be able to make a health claim. The positive (e.g. protein, fibre fruit and vegetable content) and negative (e.g. saturated salt, sugar) nutritional attributes of a product are used to calculate an overall score of “healthiness”