Progress on health claims standards in Australia not without critics

There has long been contention regarding the regulation of health claims that are applied to food, but the proposed introduction of a Health Claims standard into the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code has also raised concerns.

Consumer advocates claim that as consumers become more health conscious they are more easily swayed by claims that appear on packaging, but these purchasing decisions are being made due to   claims that are not backed by solid evidence.

One of the key requirements of the new standards would be that claims are substantatied by a comprehensive scientific dossier.

The proposed new Health Claims Standard was discussed at the recent FoodLegal- sponsored symposium, where FSANZ’s General Manager Mr Dean Stockwell emphasised that the Ministers’ meeting in June 2012 had continued to support key elements of the existing draft with regard to nutrition content claims, high level health claims, and the application of the nutrient profiling scoring criteria applying to general level health claims.

FoodLegal’s managing principal Joe Lederman expressed concerns during the presentation that FSANZ’s new definition of ‘health claim’ draws an artificial distinction with therapeutic claims, one issue which continues to be contentious.

According to Mr Lederman, the current said the current Transitional Health Claims Standard banned any therapeutic claim for food within the definition of a health claim, citing the example of products which contain antioxidant properties, or probiotics.

The meeting also confirmed a new working group to be established under the umbrella of the Food Regulatory Standing Committee, with key bureaucrats representing the Australian States and Territories.

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