ACCC moves against ‘unhealthy’ nutrition claims
On 18 January 2016, the period for relying on the old transitional health claims standard, in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, expired. The new Food Standard 1.2.7 now stands alone.
In recent times, Australia’s federal government agency for fair trading the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been taking a new hard-line approach against misleading nutrition or food composition claims. Even though there was complete compliance with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, some companies have been found to have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and misrepresentation under the Australian Consumer Law. For example:
- In November 2015, Uncle Toby’s was fined $32,400 for false or misleading representations about the protein content of certain Uncle Toby’s brand oats products.
- Also in November 2015, Arnott’s was fined $51,000 for false or misleading representations about the saturated fat content of its ‘Shapes Light and Crispy’ product compared with other potato chip products available on the market.
On 26 November 2015, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said truth in advertising is a current priority enforcement area for the ACCC. It is no coincidence that the ACCC’s tough stance on food composition comes at a time just as the new Nutrition and Health Claims Standard becomes fully operational.
Although, historically, State food regulators have been the enforcers of the Food Standards Code, the ACCC is also operating in this space.
Interestingly, the proposed amendments to the Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) laws for food are actually removing the CoOL from the Food Standards Code completely.
Clearly the ACCC is now taking a leading role in the enforcement of the laws against ‘unhealthy’ nutrition-related claims for foods.
Joe Lederman is the Managing Principal of FoodLegal www.foodlegal.com.au