New website launched to ‘veggycate’ Australians on health benefits of vegetables
A new website aimed at improving Australians’ knowledge of substantiated health benefits of vegetables has been launched.
The ‘Veggycation’ website (www.veggycation.com.au) explains the health benefits in a “user-friendly way” for children, teachers, consumers, and the vegetable industry.
“Vegetables are a great source of key nutrients, but there is limited knowledge on what these nutrients do in the body,” said Dr Jocelyn Eason from Plant and Food Research and project leader for the Veggycation website.
“Veggycation will not only help improve the public’s knowledge base about the health benefits of vegetables, but also help the vegetable industry understand and utilise the new Food Standards (Standard 1.2.7 of the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code) that allow specific health claims on nutrient rich foods like vegetables,” she said.
Permitted by Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code
Dr Hazel MacTavish-West, from food science and technology consultancy MacTavish:West led the project.
“Everyone knows vegetables are healthy, and Australia’s vibrant vegetable growers also know how good their fresh produce is,” Dr MacTavish-West said. “However, until the new Food Standards were released in January 2013, making statements linking specific health claims with vegetables on the basis of their nutritional content was not allowed,” she said.
Catching up with processed foods
“With health being one of the major drivers for new product development globally, the Australian vegetable industry can now catch up with manufactured foods like breakfast cereals in terms of marketing,” Dr MacTavish-West said.
All fruits and vegetables can now use on-pack labelling, including ‘A diet containing a high amount of both fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of coronary heart disease’, for example.
“Since coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, this is no small claim,” said Dr Carolyn Lister, the project’s nutritional expert. “When it comes to the (not so) humble carrot, we can now legally say on-pack that ‘carrots are a good source of vitamin A, which is necessary for normal vision’, and also that ‘carrots are a source of fibre, which contributes to a healthy digestive system’. This will help parents really understand how food, particularly vegetables, contribute to the health of their families,” she said.
At least 200 claims
Veggycation is the face of a project funded by Horticulture Australia using the National Vegetable Levy, and matched by funds from the Australian Government. It has been undertaken by Plant and Food Research Australia and Hobart-based MacTavish:West.
One of the key outcomes of the project has been the interpretation of over 200 pre-approved health claims relevant to vegetables into nine health benefit areas. Logos have been developed for each of these benefits, which can be used on-pack and are intended to be more user-friendly for consumers. These are ‘healthy bones and joints’; ‘healthy brain and nervous system’, ‘healthy digestion energy and metabolism’; healthy heart and circulation’; ‘healthy immune system’; ‘healthy skin’; ‘healthy vision’; and ‘hydrate your body’. The project team has also undertaken industry workshops in four States.
Mr Joe Lederman, Managing Principal of food law consultancy FoodLegal told Australian Food News that he congratulated the developers of the website for the initiative “to help vegetable consumers and the greengrocery industry”.
The opportunities for health claims under the new Health Claims Standard (in the Food Standards Code) for fresh fruits and vegetables were referred to by Mr Lederman in an article in FoodLegal Bulletin in June 2012. In the article, Mr Lederman had expressed the view that the Vegetable and Fruit industry needed to become more proactive in relation to the Health and Nutrition Claims Standard in the Food Standards Code.
“Many fresh fruit and vegetables have long been regarded by people as healthy foods and some are used frequently as home remedies,” Mr Lederman wrote in June 2012. “However, nowadays they must compete against many processed foods and dietary supplements that can more readily convey a ‘healthy food’ message that has been approved by governments,” his article said.