Victorian government uses trade marks to promote “healthier” claim of its super vegies
Yesterday, Australian Food News reported consumer advocacy group CHOICE’s concerns that trade marks were being used to convey ‘healthy’ food messages for foods that did not have FSANZ pre-approval for these health claims.
CHOICE has expressed concerns that trade marks may be used to circumvent the Health Claims Standard under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
The Health Claims Standard, designed by FSANZ, requires foods to meet various eligibility criteria before a health claim can be made.
The question has now been raised as to whether the Victorian government, through its Department of Primary Industries (DPI), is taking advantage of the same legal loophole described by CHOICE.
The DPI and the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research have been promoting a new range of vegetables that have been developed with funding from the Victorian government. An article appearing in the Sunday Age in Melbourne on November 18, 2012, described the Victorian government campaign to promote the extra nutritional values of its DPI-funded super vegetables.
Although no approvals have been obtained from FSANZ for the health claims to be made, the campaign is using the trade marks “VitalVegetables,” “Vitalsight carrot”, “Vitalheart salad mix” and “Vitalheart capsicum,” and and in New Zealand, “Vitalbones,” to promote the new vegetables.
It is conceivable that consumers will understand the message of a health claim for each particular vegetable, such as inferring the DPI-promoted carrot is good for one’s eyesight or that their capsicum is good for the heart.
Whether or not these claims are true or can be scientifically substantiated is not the issue. The issue raised by CHOICE is that such health claims are not currently permitted by law. Yet, a Victorian government department appears to be doing what CHOICE says food companies ought not to be doing.
The Victorian government is the regulatory enforcement authority for food in Victoria.
The position adopted by CHOICE is not new.
In January 2011, the comprehensive Report by the Blewett Review on Food Labelling Law and Policy in Australia and New Zealand declared that the use of trade marks to carry health claims that are not authorised by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code is an “unscrupulous” practice by food companies.