The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) sets out Food Standards that are legislative instruments under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003. A new Standard to regulate nutrition content claims and health claims on food labels and in advertisements became law on 18 January 2013 (Standard 1.2.7) (the Standard). The Standard sets out conditions for making such claims. All manufacturers will be required to comply with the Standard from 18 January 2016.

Nutrition content claims are claims about the presence or absence of certain nutrients or substances in food and include claims such as ‘good source of calcium’ or ‘low in fat’. Under the Standard, nutrition content claims must meet the criteria set out in the Standard. For example, to make the claim ‘increased protein’, the food must contain at least 25% more protein than in the same quantity of reference food, which itself must meet the general conditions for a nutrition content claim about protein.

Health claims refer to the relationship between a food and health, and can be made only if they are based on food-health relationships that have been substantiated according to the Standard. High level health claims refer to a nutrient or substance in food and its relationship to a serious disease or to a biomarker of a serious disease, whereas general health claims must refer only to the nutrient or substance in a food and its effect on a health function and must not refer to a serious disease.

There are more than 200 pre-approved food-health relationships that can be used for general level health claims. High level health claims must be based on a food-health relationship pre-approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). There are currently 13 food-health relationships pre-approved for high level health claims listed in the Standard.

Businesses may also self-substantiate a food-health relationship by notifying FSANZ of the relationship before making the health claim. However businesses are not able to rely on a food-health relationship that has been self-substantiated by another business.

Whether they are pre-approved by FSANZ, or self-substantiated by businesses, all health claims must be supported by scientific evidence to the same degree of certainty. Foods carrying health claims must also meet certain compositional requirements that are set out in the Standard, including the nutrient profiling scoring criterion (NPSC). This means that before making a health claim, food businesses must ensure that the food meets a certain nutrient profiling score. For example, health claims are not permitted on high salt foods.

Claims made about non-nutrient characteristics of food (for example ‘pure’ or ‘fresh’) or process claims (for example ‘pasteurised’ or ‘halal’) are not regulated by the Standard.