Regulations Relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs

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Regulations Relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs Powered By Docstoc
					      New Regulations for the Labelling and Advertising of Foods come into effect early next year
        Written by CFL for La Femme - Port Elizabeth. CFL e-mail address:

The publication of these new regulations is a watershed moment for the South African consumer and the
food industry alike. The regulations which was published on 1 March 2010 replaces the previous outdated
regulations and aim to give the consumer more protection and information to assist with making more
informed food choices. The regulations place more restrictions on food companies that have often used
clever marketing and wording to convince us of a whole plethora of product benefits that were often
exaggerated or even did not really exist! In the past penalties for non-compliance with these regulations
meant that many manufacturers took the gaps, but this has changed and both fines and jail terms can be
imposed on those found to be non compliant.

Together with the Consumer Protection Act whose underlying philosophy is one of „guilty until proven
innocent‟, that has been promulgated and will also come into effect in 2012, there is a huge responsibility
on the food industry as a whole to comply and consumers will now have stronger recourse when they feel
that they are being misled or even lied to.

Who must comply with food labeling regulations?
The answer is simple – anyone who makes and distributes or sells food in South Africa. What is key is that
the regulations apply to not only the actual product label of foods but also to their advertising. So not only
must the label of a food in the supermarket or home industry or deli comply, but so too must their
television, magazine and other forms of advertising. It also applies to both pre-packaged and non-
prepackaged or bulk stock foods. So whether it is a single portion pack off the shelf or is packaged for
you from a larger container in a deli counter, all must comply, although there are some specific

How do the new requirements protect consumers?
The new regulations protect the consumer in many ways and make the provision of certain information
mandatory. Seven examples are:
   1. Allergens – for the first time all common allergens (egg, milk (cows and goats), crustaceans &
      molluscs, fish, peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts, wheat) must be declared and in the case of certain
      cereals the word „gluten‟ must also be specified. These allergy declarations must be made as part of
      the ingredients list or appear in a list or table just below the ingredients list.
   2. Date marking – for the first time, all foods now HAVE TO carry an expiry date. This can be
      identified as either a „Best Before‟ or „Use By‟ and „Sell By‟ and depends on the type and nature of
      the product. „Best before‟ dates are generally used for shelf stable foods and this date signifies the
      time period during which the food will be at its best. After this date it will gradually deteriorate in
      quality, but will most likely still be safe to consume for a period. „Use By‟ dates are used for
      perishable foods and the date indicates the time up to which the product should be used and
      should not be consumed after this date. „Sell By‟ dates are commonly used by retailers to control
      stock levels, but can be used for consumer information.
   3. Ingredients – although an ingredients list has always been mandatory there are some important
      changes. All additives can be labeled by their category name, for example colourant, flavouring or
      anti-caking agent, except for MSG, Tartrazine which must be specified and preservatives and anti-
      oxidants which must be specified by their common chemical name. Also any additive containing a
      common allergen must declare the allergen. Additionally if an ingredient is made up of a number of
      ingredients itself, for example Worcester sauce which is made up of water, vinegar, syrup, sugar,
      salt, spices, colourants, flavourings and sometimes anchovy essence, then all these compound
      ingredients must also be declared. More reading but more information.
   4. QUID (quantitative ingredient declaration) – This is something new to look out for and essentially
      requires that where a specific ingredient/s or characteristic is emphasized in the name or
      description of the food, the exact amount has to be declared as a percentage either after the name
      or description or ingredient in the ingredient list. For example chips that are labeled “with extra
      cheese” would need to inform the consumer exactly how much cheese they actually contain and
      „Blueberry muffins‟ will also need to say what percentage of the muffin is blueberries.
   5. Country of origin – Although some manufacturers have been doing this on a voluntary basis, it
      now becomes mandatory for all foods to declare the country of origin. This allows consumers to
      identify where all the main ingredients in the food come from (e.g. Product of South Africa) or
      whether some are from elsewhere (e.g. Produced/Manufactured/Processed/Made in South Africa). In
      addition, the manufacturer can also state whether the food was only „Packed in South Africa‟.
   6. Nutritional information – Sadly from a public health point of view the provision of nutrition
      information on foods remains voluntary unless a nutrition or health claim is made. However when it
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       is provided, the source of the information must be declared and it must be in a standard,
       prescribed tabular format giving both per 100g and per reasonable single serving. This will make
       comparisons between products easier if/when they provide the information. Interestingly the
       regulations require that the manufacturer must have scientific justification for how such a serving
       size was determined and they must not encourage super-sized portions!
    7. Claims - There are strict criteria to be met to make any nutrient content claims (e.g. Low in fat) and
       certain specific nutrition information will also have to be supplied based on the nature of the claims
       (e.g. The low fat claim would also need to give information on all the types of fat in the product) In
       addition a number of claims are now prohibited and in many cases the exact claim wording is
       prescribed and may not be deviated from. Unfortunately the controversial issues of many health
       claims (nutrient function, enhanced function, reduction of disease risk, probiotic/prebiotic,
       Glycaemic Index) have not been included, but will be published as a separate regulation at a later
       date once the Department of Health has gathered more information and devised a way to ensure
       that any such health claims are evidence based and tightly controlled – certain categories of foods
       might even be prohibited from ever making such claims.

    Which claims cannot be made on foods?
    1. The use of the term x % fat (or other nutrient) free.
    2. Water has been hard hit and may make no nutrition claims/energy claims or claims with a nutrition
       related message.
    3. Words, pictorial representations, marks, logos or descriptions which create an impression that the
       food is supported by, endorsed by, complies with or has been manufactured in accordance with:
           Health practitioners (individually / professional association / consumer advisory organizations)
           Organisations, Associations, Foundations, other entities unless approved by the Director-
           General and can prove generic health promotion supported by evidence-based nutrition & do
           not contradict these regulations in terms of nutrition claims & criteria
           Individual endorsements or testimonials when implying a nutrition claim
           Manufacturer/sellers endorsement with regard to nutritional or safety properties unless valid
           under these regulations and substantiation must be given within 2 working days
    4. None of the following words or similar words with the same implications: „health‟ or „healthy‟ or
       „wholesome‟ or „nutritious‟ or „complete‟ or „balanced‟ or „cure‟ or any other medicinal claim
    5. No claim may be made on the label that the food has acquired nutritive value from nutrients or
       substances added for technical or sensory reasons. For example: A product may not claim to
       contain Vitamin C if the vitamin C is added as an antioxidant.
    6. Claims cannot refer to anything not in the package - provided if an adjunct then it must be clearly
       indicated and nutritional information can only be for what is in the package. For example: A cereal
       product may claim to contain calcium if it is clearly indicated that milk has been added to the
    7. No sugar added / No added sugar claims are NOT allowed for any food containing any one or
       combination of the following sugars: xylose and mono- and disaccharides such as corn syrup,
       deionised, deflavoured fruit concentrates and juices, dextrose, dextrose syrup, fructose, fructose
       syrup, glucose, glucose syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, maltose syrup, sucrose and sucrose

Who enforces these regulations?

Although regulations in South Africa are set at the national level, enforcement happens at the local level.
Thus, the Environmental Health Practitioners of the Nelson Mandela Metro Municipality are the law
enforcers where we live. Sadly due to a poor understanding of the complexity of the regulations, limited
resources and more urgent issues to deal with, enforcement is likely to be poor. There is no doubt that
there will be strong self-regulation from the food industry itself with non-compliant competitors being
reported to the Advertising Standards Authority. But above all each and every one of us as consumers have
the right to also report non-compliant companies to either the local authority or the Advertising Standards
Authority and so when the enforcement date of 1st March 2012 comes around, we as consumers need to
ensure that our rights, as proved by both these new food regulations and the Consumer Protection Act are
protected. At the end of the day it is up to us to ensure that the foods we eat, contribute towards our
health and that ultimate goal of a well-balanced, varied diet that is part of a total healthy lifestyle.


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