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Don't have time to read this? Watch our video summary by Ciska de Rijk, associate in our sales & marketing team.

On 18 January 2013, the law in New Zealand regulating health and nutrition claims was significantly changed due to the introduction of Standard 1.2.7 (Nutrition, Health and Related Claims) under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (New Standard).

This New Standard will eventually replace the current transitional Standard 1.1A2 (Current Standard) which will be repealed on 18 January 2016. Until this date, businesses have the option to comply with either Standard (but not both!).

So, what is new and what are the downsides to the New Standard? This update delves into this question and also suggests that perhaps businesses may find greater latitude in sticking with the Current Standard until 18 January 2016.

So what really is new under the New Standard?

The New Standard allows businesses to make 13 pre-approved "high level health claims" (subject to certain conditions). These claims are not permitted under the Current Standard.

Under the New Standard, a "high level health claim" is a claim about a substance or nutrient in food and its relationship to a serious disease or to a biomarker of a serious disease. For example "reduces risk of osteoporosis" would be considered a High Level health claim. These claims must be pre-approved as listed under the New Standard - only 13 claims are currently pre-approved - and cannot be self-substantiated.

The New Standard also permits "general level health claims". General level health claims are claims about a substance or nutrient in food and its effect on health. For example, "Vitamin D is good for your bones" would be considered a General level health claim. These claims can:

  • be pre-approved as listed under the New Standard (200 currently listed); or
  • be self-substantiated (note that there are stringent requirements under the New Standard that must be met in order to self-substantiate claims).

General level health claims are also permitted under the Current Standard but are generally known in the industry as "nutrition function/property claims" and do not have the same requirements that need to be met, in order to be claimed (more on this later!).

The essential differences between the claims that can be made under the Standards are summarised in the table below.

Click here to view table.

What are the downsides?

On the face of it, the introduction of this New Standard seems positive - at least now we can make high level health claims, right?

Maybe. But the introduction of the New Standard has meant complex and stringent requirements must be met before health claims are able to be made.

For example, under the Current Standard you can make general level health claims as long as you are careful with how these claims are worded. Now you cannot make a general level health claim without meeting a certain threshold under the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criteria (NPSC) and the claim is one of 200 prescribed by the New Standard or you meet stringent self-substantiation requirements.

In addition, labelling requirements for all health claims mean that (where applicable) claims must state:

  • the food or property of food;the health effect;
  • any required population group;
  • dietary context statement; and
  • the form of food to which the health claim relates.

What can you learn from this?

Although you can now make 13 pre-approved high level health claims, you are also now restricted in the general level health claims that can be made. Extremely complex labelling requirements must be met before health claims can be made.

These same complex conditions are not required to be met under the Current Standard. So although high level health claims are not permitted, you are able to make general level health claims as long as your wording of the claims is careful and without the need to:

  • meet the NPSC threshold;
  • be a pre-approved claim; or
  • meet the stringent requirements under the New Standard for self-substantiation.

This means that there may be some merit in your business sticking with the Current Standard until it is repealed in January 2016 - it may give you greater latitude in the claims that you want to make.