New regulations have been published in Pretoria designed to tighten food claim and label information rules. Origin, date and batch numbers must feature and special restrictions apply to certain foods identified as “not essential to a healthy lifestyle.” J Michael Judin of Johannesburg attorneys Goldman Judin Inc reports.
Who: Minister of Health
When: December 2007
Where: South Africa
Law stated as at: 12 December 2007
New draft Regulations Relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs have been published by the Minister of Health under the auspices of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, (Act 54 of 1972), for public comment (refer www.doh.gov.za/docs/regulations/2007/reg634.pdf).
The draft regulations intend to take into account new developments in scientific research as well as in international Codex Standards and Guidelines.
The regulations include an extensive list of new and amended definitions and mandatory date markings on most foods, as well as provisions requiring the indication of the country of origin and batch identification. Other regulations ntroduce specific conditions for nutritional information on food labels.
More detailed guidance in terms of prohibited statements has also been incorporated to combat consumer deception and use of misleading information.
Foods "not essential for a healthy lifestyle" named
The regulations also seek to implement the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation's Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. As part of the implementation of that Strategy, the Department of Health has identified foods that are not regarded as essential for a healthy lifestyle (see Annexure 6).
The use of health and nutrition claims for such foods is prohibited and these foods cannot be advertised to children and on school premises. Furthermore, these food items will have to contain the words "Use in moderation only since excessive consumption on a regular basis may lead to an unhealthy increase in weight/obesity" or "Regular consumption not recommended for a healthy diet".
The regulations also set extensive conditions and criteria for nutrition and health claims on certain food labels and/or their advertising with the aim of ensuring more honest and responsible food labels and marketing practices.
The list of common allergens is extended from 2 to 9 different allergen categories.
Why this matters:
In many respects these proposed regulations echo similar provisions currently being introduced in Europe and indicate a growing worldwide trend imposing ever tighter constraints on the labelling and advertising of foods not deemed conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
J Michael Judin
Goldman Judin Inc attorneys
Johannesbourg, South Africa