Foods la­belling laws to change

Sub­ject to cer­tain very lim­ited ex­cep­tions, the cur­rent la­belling of all pre-pack­aged foods in SA will need to be re­vised

Business Day - Business Law and Tax Review - - FRONT PAGE - AL­TAIR RICHARDS

THE health min­is­ter pub­lished new reg­u­la­tions on March 1 for la­belling and ad­ver­tis­ing food­stuffs un­der the Food­stuffs, Cos­met­ics and Dis­in­fec­tants Act.

The Health Depart­ment has said that the new reg­u­la­tions are aimed at en­sur­ing that con­sumers have ac­cess to ac­cu­rately la­belled food­stuffs that will, in turn, as­sist con­sumers in mak­ing in­formed food choices in line with the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) global strat­egy on diet, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and health.

With one ex­cep­tion, the new reg­u­la­tions will come into op­er­a­tion with ef­fect from March 1 next year . Sub­ject to cer­tain very lim­ited ex­cep­tions, the cur­rent la­belling of all pre-pack­aged foods in SA will need to be re­vised.

There are a num­ber of as­pects of the reg­u­la­tions which will have cost and ad­min­is­tra­tive im­pli­ca­tions for the food in­dus­try or will re­quire changes to cur­rent prac­tice. Th­ese in­clude pro­vi­sions re­lat­ing to:

Pre­scribed record keep­ing for man­u­fac­tur­ers, im­porters and sell­ers of foods;

The re­quire­ment that la­belling must be in English and “where pos­si­ble” at least one other of­fi­cial lan­guage;

The in­tro­duc­tion of Nu­tri­ent Ref­er­ence Val­ues (NRVs) to re­place the cur­rent Rec­om­mended Daily Al­lowances (RDAs);

Batch iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and trace­abil­ity re­quire­ments;

More pre­scrip­tive coun­try of ori­gin and date mark­ing pro­vi­sions;

Manda­tory dis­clo­sure of the pres­ence of com­mon al­ler­gens and goat’s milk in foods and an obli­ga­tion to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to con­sumers on re­quest in re­la­tion to un­com­mon al­ler­gens;

Sub­ject to cer­tain lim­ited ex­cep- tions, manda­tory dis­clo­sure of all ad­di­tives in the list of in­gre­di­ents;

On-la­bel clas­si­fi­ca­tion and dis­clo­sure re­quire­ments for fats and oils in foods;

Determination of stor­age in­struc­tions by man­u­fac­tur­ers rel­e­vant to the na­ture of a food to en­sure that any spe­cific qual­ity at­tributes for which tacit or ex­press claims have been made are re­tained and pre­served;

Reg­u­la­tion of veg­e­tar­ian claims; and

The re­quire­ment that man­u­fac­tur­ers must have ap­pro­pri­ate, sci­en­tific, ev­i­dence-based doc­u­men­ta­tion to jus­tify the cho­sen serv­ing size of a food and that a serv­ing size must not en­cour­age con­sumers to con­sume “su­per size” serv­ings.

The reg­u­la­tions will im­pose new obli­ga­tions on re­tail­ers such as su­per­mar­kets, bak­eries, petrol garages, fish­mon­gers, del­i­catessens and the like where, in the course of busi­ness, ready- to-eat foods, flour con­fec­tionary or cer­tain wheat prod­ucts are pre­pared for di­rect sale to the con­sumer for con­sump­tion, or where frozen and then thawed foods are sold.

An­other obli­ga­tion which will now be placed on re­tail­ers is that an in­gre­di­ent list, in­clud­ing dis­clo­sure of al­ler­gens, must be avail­able on re­quest at the point of sale of wheat prod­ucts which are not pre-packed (in­clud­ing bread and bread rolls), any ready-to-eat food pre­pared and sold on the premises of a “ca­ter­ing es­tab­lish­ment” for con- sump­tion and flour con­fec­tionary in­tended to be con­sumed within 24 hours of man­u­fac­ture.

The new reg­u­la­tions will in­tro­duce far-reach­ing changes to the types of claims which man­u­fac­tur­ers may make on the la­belling and ad­ver­tis­ing of foods.

One im­por­tant change is that no claim (in­clud­ing claims for most vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, pro­tein, fi­bre, en­ergy, fatty acids and car­bo­hy­drates)

which de­scribes the level of a nu­tri­ent con­tained in a food on a la­bel or in an ad­ver­tise­ment may be made un­less it com­plies with cer­tain pre­scribed con­di­tions and may not be worded in any way dif­fer­ently from the ap­pli­ca­ble pre­scribed word­ing, namely “low”, “free or vir­tu­ally free”, “source”, “high” or “very high”. Anal­o­gous terms in com­mon cur­rent use, such as “rich in”, “ex­cel­lent source”, “good source”, “en­riched”, “en­riched with (name of nu­tri­ent)”, “with added (name of nu­tri­ent(s))”, “con­tains (name of nu­tri­ent(s))” or sim­i­lar word­ing are ex­pressly pro­hib­ited. The term “trace” is also pro­hib­ited in this con­text.

Claims such as “x% fat free” or “x% (name of nu­tri­ent) free” will be pro­hib­ited as from June 1 this year.

The words “whole­some”, “nu­tri­tious” and any other words with a sim­i­lar mean­ing will be pro­hib­ited, in­clud­ing use in the name or trade name of foods.

La­bels and ad­ver­tise­ments for foods will not be able to re­flect an en­dorse­ment by a man­u­fac­turer or seller in the form of a logo, mark, sym­bol or writ­ten or ver­bal state­ment re­gard­ing the nu­tri­tional or safety prop­er­ties of a food un­less it is valid ac­cord­ing to the new reg­u­la­tions and ap­pro­pri­ate sub­stan­ti­a­tion can be pro­vided to a Depart­ment of Health in­spec­tor within two work­ing days.

The use of state­ments to the ef­fect of a food be­ing “fresh”, “nat­u­ral”, “na­ture’s”, “pure”, “tra­di­tional”, “orig­i­nal”, “au­then­tic”, “real”, “gen­uine”, “home made”, “farm­house”, “hand­made”, “se­lected”, “pre­mium”, “finest”, “qual­ity” or “best”, or any other words, state­ments, phrases, lo­gos or pic­to­rial rep­re­sen­ta­tions which con­vey or im­ply sim­i­lar con­cepts will only be per­mit­ted if com­pli­ant with the cri­te­ria stip­u­lated in a spec­i­fied doc­u­ment pub­lished by the United King­dom Food Stan­dards Agency (FSA), which has been in­cor­po­rated into the new reg­u­la­tions by ref­er­ence.

The food man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try has been very in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment process of the new reg­u­la­tions from the time of the pub­li­ca­tion of a pre­vi­ous, more oner­ous, draft in 2007, giv­ing them time to pre­pare for the im­pend­ing reg­u­la­tory changes.

It re­mains to be seen whether re­tail­ers have given as much con­sid­er­a­tion to the im­pact of the new reg­u­la­tions on their busi­nesses.


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