Australia, NZ putting final touches to health, nutrition claims

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Health claim Nutrition Cardiovascular disease

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is ironing out the
creases before finalising its proposed health and nutrition claims
standard with nutrient profiling and percentage daily intakes up
for comment.

Melanie Fisher, FSANZ's General Manager (Standards), comfirmed that several health claims are pre-approved, inclduing the link between fruit and vegetable consumption and a reduction in the risk of heart disease, calcium and osteoporosis or enhanced bone density, sodium and blood pressure, folic acid and neural tube defects, and saturated fats and trans fats and LDL cholesterol levels. The new standard will also allow for lower levels of health claims for ingredients with some but not enough evidence backing up the proposed health benefits. "Our expert advisory group found that there was probable evidence that dietary omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease but that this did not reach the convincing level required for a high level health claim,"​ she said."However, a general level health claim, which requires a lesser degree of evidence, will be able to be made, for example 'omega 3s aid heart health'. "The expert group also concluded that currently there was not convincing evidence for a relationship between wholegrains and cardiovascular disease so FSANZ is not pre-approving a high level claim based on this."​ The proposed new standard will put in place a voluntary scheme that will allow manufacturers to promote the health benefits of their products. "To be eligible to make health claims foods will need to meet a number of criteria. The standard provides a rigorous framework to assess claims linking a food to the reduction of risk of a certain disease, for example 'fruit and vegetables reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease'. It also makes nutrition claims - like 'low salt' and 'reduced fat' - legally enforceable,"​ said Fisher. She added that previous proposals for setting upper limits for saturated fat, sugar and salt were regarded as too simplistic, and, as a result, the agency has developed a system that takes account of the overall composition of the food, which they are calling the nutrient profiling method, which will also take into account fibre, fruit and vegetable content. "If a food does not qualify to make a health claim, and a food manufacturer still wants to make a claim, they may be able to reformulate their product with less salt, sugar or saturated fat or by increasing fibre or fruit and vegetable content. "We are interested in stakeholders' views on this profiling method,"​ she said. "During the last round of public comment we proposed including a percentage of daily kilojoules on the labels of foods making a nutrition claim such as 'low salt' or 'good source of calcium'. We received a mixed response to this suggestion and we are now undertaking further consumer research and proposing that the percentage daily intake be considered in the broader labelling review we are scoping this year rather than in this proposal,"​ concluded Fisher. Comments on the proposals can be made until 16 May 2007. The report is available on the FSANZ website​, along with an electronic calculator to allow a quick and simple calculation of whether a food is eligible to carry a health claim.

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