Going to the supermarket is a sensory experience – for the eyes, ears, nose, and if you are lucky, tastebuds! There are colours, eye-catching packages, lighting, music, announcements, cooking chooks, the baking of cookies, and a free sample! But asides all of that, we have a duty to do while we are at the supermarket – buy food to feed ourselves and our families.
Packages of products are designed not only to look good, but also to educate on the health benefits of the products you are purchasing. These claims are regulated by the Food Standards Code (produced by FSANZ), to ensure that only health claims which are supported by evidence are made. otherwise any old claim could be made to bamboozle the poor consumer. But what are these claims, and how are they managed?
Nutrition content claims are related to the certain nutrients that are present in the food, such as being low in fat, or a good source of calcium. These claims are aimed to educate the consumer about what their foods consume, and to make a more conscientious choice about what they are buying and putting into their bodies. Not all nutrients present in a food are listed on the label, as there are certain nutrients which are prioritised for demand purchases, consumer interest, or health interest.
Health claims are related to the relationship between food and health, rather than what is in the product. There are two types of these health claims:
General level: refer to a nutrient or substance in the food, or the food itself, and the effect it has on health. They are not allowed to refer to a serious disease or biomarker for serious disease. An example is – calcium for health bones.
High level: this refers to a nutrient which has a relationship to a serious disease or to a factor associated with disease. For example, a diet high in calcium can aid in preventing osteoporosis in people over 65 years old.
There is some regulation regarding claims such as fat and sugar free, but currently these are not regulated by FSANZ, although there is further research going into whether this needs to be regulated. These claims can be made by manufacturers at their own discretion, but should not be misleading to consumers. Many companies have been fined for going against the regulations set by FSANZ for claims.
This can be a challenging concept to understand, but know that the food industry is very well followed and foods are very well regulated by a governing body to ensure that products available are not false advertising to confuse consumers. For more information, please contact one of our Accredited Practicing Dietitians.