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Home Policy and public affairs WCRF International Food Policy Framework for Healthy Diets: NOURISHING Nutrition label standards & regulations on the use of claims and implied claims on foods

WCRF International Food Policy Framework for Healthy Diets: NOURISHING

Nutrition label standards & regulations on the use of claims and implied claims on foods

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This table provides examples of the types of policy action that can be taken within this policy area, examples of where these policy actions have been implemented, and a brief description of what the action involves. It provides a global snapshot, largely of policies already implemented; it is not necessarily comprehensive. The examples were collated through a review of international reports of policy actions around the world, academic articles reporting on policy actions, and online government resources.

We welcome feedback. Please contact us at policy@wcrf.org if you would like to add any further examples of implemented policies, see the policy documents that we reference, or have any further questions or comments.

 

Examples of policy actions Examples of where implemented What the action involves
Mandatory nutrient lists on packaged foodsa

aMost other countries follow Guideline CAC/GL 2-1985 from the Codex Alimentarius Commission in requiring nutrition labels only when a nutrition or health claim is made and/or on foods with special dietary uses
Australia
Canada
Chile
China
Costa Rica
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
Hong Kong, SAR
Israel
MERCOSUR countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela)
Mexico
New Zealand
Nicaragua
United States
Producers and retailers are required by law to provide a list of the nutrient content of pre-packaged food products (with limited exceptions), even in the absence of a nutrition or health claim. The rules define which nutrients must be listed and on what basis (e.g. per 100g/per serving).
EU countries
Iceland
Liechtenstein
Norway
Switzerland
EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the "Provision of Food Information to Consumers", passed in 2011, requires a list of the nutrient content of most pre-packaged foods to be provided on the back of the pack from 2016. This Regulation is also applicable in Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein as members of the European Economic Area. In Switzerland, nutrient content labelling is only mandatory for products bearing nutrient or health claims or sold to the EU (but most manufacturers already label nutrient content on their food products voluntarily).
Malaysia A nutrient list must be provided on select categories of packaged foods, including bread, dairy products, canned food, fruit juices, salad dressings and soft drinks. Details are provided in the Malaysian Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims (2010), which reflects labelling legislation from 2003 (as incorporated into the Food Act of 1983 and Food Regulations of 1985) and subsequent amendments.
South Korea A nutrient list must be provided on select categories of pre-packaged foods, including cookies/candies/popsicles, breads and dumplings, chocolates, jams, oils, noodles and pasta, drinks and beverages, and foods of special use. The Foods Labelling Standards were first enacted in 1996, and the Labelling Standard for Health Functional Food in 2004; both Standards have been revised several times since then.
Mandatory labelling of selected food ingredients on specified foods Estonia According to Regulation No. 324 (2003) the amount of added salt must be included in the list of ingredients on selected foods as a percentage by weight, including butter and margarines, cheese, sausages, soups, salads, fish products and cereals. These national requirements will be repealed in December 2014, when EU labelling regulation 1169/2011 shall apply.

Trans fats included in mandatory nutrient labels Argentina
Brazil
Canada
Chile
Hong Kong, SAR
Paraguay
South Korea
Taiwan
United States
Uruguay
Nutrient lists on pre-packaged food must, by law, include the trans fat content of the food. The rules generally define how the trans fat content must be listed, and on what basis (e.g. per 100g/100ml or per serving). If the trans fat content falls below a certain threshold, it may be listed as 0g (e.g. less than 0.5g per serving, or less than 0.3g per 100g of food product). Chile requires mandatory trans fat labelling only once the total fat content per serving exceeds 3g.

INFORMATION UPDATED 24/06/2014
Clearly visible "interpretative" labels Australia In 2013, the government approved a 'Health Star Rating' (HSR) system as a voluntary scheme for industry adoption. The system takes into account four aspects of a food associated with increasing risk for chronic diseases; energy, saturated fat, sodium and total sugars content along with certain 'positive' aspects of a food such as fruit and vegetable content, and in some instances, dietary fibre and protein content. Star ratings range from ½ star (least healthy) to 5 stars (most healthy). The implementation of the HSR system will be overseen in 2014 by a Front-of-Pack Labelling Oversight and Advisory Committee.
Denmark
Iceland
Norway
Sweden
The government has set nutritional criteria for the use of the Keyhole logo which was established in Sweden in 1989 and launched as a common Nordic label on 17 June 2009 in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The aim is to help consumers choose products that contain less fat, salt and sugar. Use of the logo is voluntary, but products must conform to the nutrition criteria. In March 2014, the Norwegian government initiated a consultation on the criteria used in the Keyhole symbol.
Ecuador A regulation of the Ministry of Health published in 2013 will require packaged foods to carry "traffic light" labels with red, orange and green signals. It has not yet been implemented.
EU countries
Iceland
Liechtenstein
Norway
Switzerland
EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the "Provision of Food Information to Consumers", passed in 2011, permits EU Member States to develop voluntary guidelines for front of pack nutrition information, to be used in addition to the mandatory nutrition information on the back of pack. Information on energy value, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content is permitted. Different styles of presentation (e.g. % Guideline Daily Allowances or traffic lights) are permitted. This Regulation is also applicable in Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein as members of the European Economic Area and Switzerland based on its bilateral agreements with the EU.
Finland A heart symbol system was introduced in 2000 by the Finnish Heart Foundation and the Finnish Diabetes Foundation. The heart symbol indicates that a product is a better choice regarding sodium and salt content compared to another product in the same food category. The heart symbol system is acknowledged by the Finnish national authorities, and the National Nutrition Council recommends consumers to use products bearing the heart symbol.
Belgium
Czech Republic
Netherlands
Poland
The Choices Logo, a voluntary, industry-initiated scheme, is widely used in these countries. The Logo identifies healthier options in each food group. Products must meet nutritional criteria set by an independent scientific committee. In the Netherlands, the Choices logo was introduced in 2006, and is now actively supported by the Dutch government. It received EU approval for use (2013). In Belgium, the logo was introduced in 2007, in the Czech Republic in 2011, and in Poland in 2008.
Singapore The government introduced a 'Healthier Choice' symbol in 1998 with defined nutrition criteria. Food manufacturers and retailers can voluntarily use the label on front-of-pack for products that meet the criteria. In 2003, the use of the symbol was extended to hawkers and restaurants. Hawkers adhering to required standards may use it on their publicly displayed food hygiene certificates, while restaurants can display the symbol next to dishes meeting the criteria.
South Korea The Special Act on Safety Control of Children's Dietary Life recommends colour-coded labelling for use on the front of pre-packaged children's 'favourite foods' including cookies/candies/ popsicles, breads, chocolates, dairy products, sausage (fish or meat based), some beverages, instant noodles and fast foods (seaweed rolls, hamburgers, sandwiches). Guidance for the front-of-pack colour-coded labelling was issued by Public Notice (2011), and outlines three permitted designs using green, amber and red to identify whether products contain low, medium or high levels of total sugars, fat, saturated fat, and sodium.
Thailand A Notification to the Ministry of Public Health (2007) issued by the Food and Drug Administration requires five categories of snack foods to carry a "Guideline Daily Allowance" label. The label includes text aimed to help consumers understand the "GDA" and the text "should consume in small amounts and exercise for better health" (see "Warning labels").
United Kingdom In 2013, the government published national guidance for voluntary 'traffic light' labelling for use on the front of pre-packaged products. The label uses green, amber and red to identify whether products contain low, medium or high levels of energy, fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar.
On-shelf labelling Pacific Islands The Food Safety Act 2009 in Fiji, and the Pure Food (Food Control) Regulations 2009 in the Solomon Islands require on-shelf labelling for canned luncheon meat, canned meat containing other food which has more than 20% fat, and for all minced meats and sausages sold unpackaged. The label should read "This brand of canned luncheon meat/canned meat with (name of the other food) is high in fat. For a healthy diet eat less". It is reported to not be widely implemented.
Calorie labelling on menus and displays in out-of-home venues Australia Legislation in Australian Capital Territory (Food Regulation 2002) and the States of New South Wales (Food Regulation 2010) and South Australia (Food Regulation 2002) requires restaurant chains (e.g. fast food chains, ice cream bars) with ≥20 outlets in the state (or seven in the case of ACT), or 50 or more across Australia, to display the kilojoule content of food products on their menu boards. The display must be clear and legible. Average adult daily energy intake of 8700kj must also be prominently featured. Other chains/food outlets are allowed to provide this information on a voluntary basis, but must follow the provisions of the legislation.
South Korea Since 2010, the Special Act on Safety Control of Children’s Dietary Life has required all chain restaurants with 100 or more establishments to display nutrient information on menus including energy, total sugars, protein, saturated fat and sodium on menus.
United Kingdom As part of the government’s Responsibility Deal, 49 companies/retailers have agreed to provide calorie information on menus and display boards. Although voluntary, the label must follow a standard government model. The Out of Home Calorie Labelling pledge was implemented in September 2011.
United States Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010) requires that all chain restaurants with 20 or more establishments display energy information on menus. Although most requirements came into effect in 2010, the Food and Drug Administration is not enforcing them and has yet to issue the final implementing regulations. Four states (e.g. California), five counties (e.g. King County, Washington State) and three municipalities (e.g. New York City) already have regulations requiring chain restaurants (often chains with more than a given number of outlets) to display calorie information on menus and display boards. These regulations will be pre-empted by the national law once implemented.

The State of Colorado has a voluntary Smart Meal Seal program developed in 2005, where participating restaurants display point-of-purchase labelling to promote healthier food options. Food options must meet nutrition requirements set by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Participating restaurants must offer at least two main courses or side options that meet or exceed all of the established nutrition criteria.
Warning labels Chile In 2012, the Chilean government approved a Law of Food Labelling and Advertising which included a provision for the development of warning labels on foods high in energy, sugar, saturated fat and sodium. In 2013, the government issued a further statement defining the products to which the warning label applies. It also defines the criteria for the presentation and location of the warning. Although the rules have been adopted, the warning labels have not yet been implemented.
Finland National legislation regarding the compulsory use of warning labels on high-salt foods has been in place since 1993. The legislation is applied to all the food categories that make a substantial contribution to the salt intake of the Finnish population. Foods that are high in salt are required to carry a "high salt content" warning. A "high salt content" must be labelled if the salt content is more than 1.3% in bread, 1.8% in sausages, 1.4% in cheese, 2.0% in butter, and 1.7% in breakfast cereals or crisp bread.
Thailand A Notification to the Ministry of Public Health (2007) issued by the Food and Drug Administration requires five categories of snack foods to carry a warning label that reads "Should consume in small amounts and exercise for better health" alongside a Guideline Daily Allowance Label.
Rules on nutrient claims (i.e. nutrient content and nutrient comparative claims) Australia
New Zealand
Nutrition, Health and Related Claims Standard 1.2.7 (2013) introduces rules on the use of nutrition content claims (i.e. levels of fat for a low fat claim). Industry will need to comply with the Standard by January 2016. Although nutrition content claims need to meet certain criteria set out in the Standard, there are no generalised nutritional criteria that restrict their use on "unhealthy" foods.
Costa Rica
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
Nicaragua
A 2012 Central American Technical Regulation (67.01.60:10) establishes rules on the use of specified nutrient content claims (i.e. levels of fat for a low fat claim). Claims are not permitted on products that may promote or sanction excessive consumption of these nutrients or undermine good dietary practice. Although nutrition content claims need to meet certain criteria set out in the Regulation, there are no generalised nutritional criteria that restrict their use on "unhealthy" foods.
EU Countries
Iceland
Liechtenstein
Norway
Switzerland
Regulation 1924/2006 establishes EU-wide rules on the use of specified nutrient content and comparative claims (i.e. levels of fat for a low fat claim). As of January 2010, only nutrition claims as listed in the Regulation’s annex are permitted. In theory, these nutrition claims may only be used on foods defined as "healthy" by a nutrient profile. This nutrient profiling restriction was due to be implemented in 2010 but no model has yet been established. Therefore, permitted nutrition claims can be used as long as the conditions for use of the claim as set out in the annex are met. Once nutrient profiles are established, nutrition claims may only be used on food products deemed "healthy", though two notable exceptions will apply: nutrition claims referring to the reduction of fat, saturated fats, trans fats, sugars and salt/sodium will be allowed without reference to a profile for the specific nutrient, provided the claims comply with the conditions of the Regulation; and a nutrition claim may be used even if a single nutrient exceeds the nutrient profile as long as a statement in relation to this nutrient appears on the label in close proximity to, on the same side and with the same prominence, as the claim (the statement must read: 'High [name of nutrient] content'). This Regulation is also applicable in Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein as members of the European Economic Area; Switzerland amended its foodstuff law based on its bilateral agreements with the EU to include permitted EU nutrient claims.
Indonesia Regulation HK.03.1.23.11.11.09909 (2011) on "The Control of Claims on Processed Food Labelling and Advertisements" establishes rules on the use of specified nutrient content claims (i.e. levels of fat for a low fat claim). The Regulation applies to any food product or beverage which has been processed. Generally, any nutrition or health claim may only be used on processed foods or beverages if they do not exceed a certain level of fat and natrium per serving (13g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 60mg cholesterol and 480mg natrium). The Regulation sets out certain exceptions from this rule, detailed in its annexes, whereby products exceeding these limits may still contain certain nutrient or health claims ("low in [name of nutrient]" and "free from [name of nutrient]" claims; claims related to fibre, phytosterol and fitostanol; certain disease risk reduction claims).
Malaysia The Malaysian Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims (as at December 2010) establishes rules on the use of specified nutrient content claims (i.e. levels of fat for a low fat claim). Although nutrition content claims need to meet certain criteria set out in the Guide, there are no generalised nutritional criteria that restrict their use on "unhealthy" foods. Labelling legislation was overhauled in 2003 and all new legislation was incorporated into the existing Food Act of 1983 and Food Regulations of 1985. The Malaysian Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims (as at December 2010) contains the legislation as of 2003 as well as all amendments up to December 2010.
Mexico Regulation NOM-051-SCFI/SSA1 (2010) sets rules for the use of nutrition content claims. It prohibits the use of false and misleading claims on labels, especially those that relate to dietary guidance, eating habits and nutritional properties of foods. No disease risk reduction claims are allowed. Although nutrition content claims need to meet certain criteria set out in the Regulation, there are no generalised nutritional criteria that restrict their use on "unhealthy" foods.
South Africa Section 15(1) of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics, and Disinfectants Act (by means of regulation of 2010, effective from March 2012) defines the nutrient content claims permitted in South Africa and establishes rules for their use (e.g. levels of fat permitted in a food product bearing a low fat claim). Nutrient content claims must be substantiated by nutritional information, and the use of terms such as "health," "healthy" and "wholesome" or "nutritious", is not allowed. Although nutrition content claims need to meet certain criteria set out in the regulation, there are no generalised nutritional criteria which restrict their use on "unhealthy" foods.
South Korea The rules on the use of nutrient claims were established in July 2000 under Section 4 of the Food Sanitation Act (food labelling). The law regulates which claims are permitted, defines the conditions that must be met for the claim, and governs the language that may be used.
United States Nutrient-content claims are generally limited to an FDA-authorized list of nutrients (Food Labeling Guide 1994, as last revised in January 2013). Packages containing a nutrient-content claim must include a disclosure statement if a serving of food contains more than 13g of fat, 4g of saturated fat, 60mg of cholesterol, or 480mg of sodium. Sugar and whole grain content are not considered.
Rules on health claims (i.e. nutrient function and disease risk reduction claims) Australia Nutrition, Health and Related Claims Standard 1.2.7 (2013) includes rules for the use of general level (i.e. nutrient function) and high level (i.e. disease risk reduction) health claims on food labels and in advertisements. Industry need to comply with the Standard by January 2016. High level health claims must be pre-approved and listed. General level health claims can either be pre-approved and listed in the Standard or self-substantiated according to requirements of the Standard. Both types of health claims are only permitted on food that meet nutritional criteria, as defined by the nutrient profiling scoring criterion set out in the Standard.
Costa Rica
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
Nicaragua
A 2012 Central American Technical Regulation (67.01.60:10) permits and regulates the use of nutrient function and disease risk reduction claims. Claims must be substantiated through information demonstrating the nutritional composition of the food, and the relationship between the claimed function of the food product and the beneficial effect on diet and health. The Ministry of Health has responsibility to approve the use of claims on foods containing high levels of nutrients that can increase risk of illness or health problems. Claims are not permitted on products that may promote or sanction excessive consumption of these nutrients or undermine good dietary practice. There are no generalised nutritional criteria which restrict their use on "unhealthy" foods.
EU Countries
Iceland
Liechtenstein
Norway
Switzerland
Regulation 1924/2006 (applicable as of July 2007) establishes EU-wide rules on the use of health claims (claims on nutrient function, disease risk reduction and children’s health). Companies may only use health claims that are substantiated and authorised by the European Commission and Member States (various regulations authorising health claims to date). The European Food Safety Authority is responsible for verifying the scientific substantiation of claims; it has done so for claims currently in use and continues to do so for claims that are proposed and applied for by companies which want to use health claims in the EU. In theory, health claims may only be used on foods defined as "healthy" by a nutrient profile. This nutrient profiling restriction was due to be implemented in 2010 but no model has yet been established. Therefore, permitted health claims can be used as long as the conditions for use of the claim as set out in the respective regulations are met. Once nutrient profiles are established, health claims may only be used on food products deemed "healthy". This Regulation is also applicable in Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein as members of the European Economic Area; Switzerland amended its foodstuff law based on its bilateral agreements with the EU to include permitted EU health claims.
Indonesia Regulation HK.03.1.23.11.11.09909 (2011) on "The Control of Claims on Processed Food Labelling and Advertisements" permits a limited number of listed nutrient function and disease risk reduction claims. The Regulation applies to any food product or beverage which has been processed. Generally, any nutrition or health claim may only be used on processed foods or beverages if they do not exceed a certain level of fat and natrium per serving (13g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 60mg cholesterol and 480mg natrium). The Regulation sets out certain exceptions from this rule, detailed in its annexes, whereby products exceeding these limits may still contain certain nutrient or health claims ("low in [name of nutrient]" and "free from [name of nutrient]" claims; claims related to fibre, phytosterol and fitostanol; certain disease risk reduction claims).
South Korea The rules for the use of health claims are set out in the Health Functional Food Code, based on Article 17 of Section 3 (Standards, Specifications, Labelling and Advertisements) of the Health Functional Food Act 2004 (which has been amended several times). The Act allows for claims to be expressed in both words and diagrams. The Code lists the wording for allowed claims, sets out standards for manufacturing to be observed for each nutrient, and how much the actual nutrient content of the product may deviate from the labelled content (in percentage, i.e. beta-carotene must be within 80 – 150% of the labelled amount). The Code includes the recommended daily intake amount, generally expressed as a range between the minimum to maximum amount. If intake of a nutrient may cause negative health effects, a warning label has to be applied.
United States The use of disease risk reduction claims is permitted in the United States. They are governed by specific rules in the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (1990) and the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act (1997). There are three categories of claims permitted:
  1. Claims judged by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have "significant scientific agreement" (currently twelve claims).
  2. Claims supported by a published, current and authoritative statement by a federal scientific body or the National Academy of Sciences (currently six claims).
  3. "Qualified claims." These claims do not meet the above-mentioned standards but may be used if there is some scientific evidence to substantiate the claim provided they include a disclaimer referencing the scientific uncertainty. The FDA considers a number of factors in approving a claim, including the strength of the evidence and potential public health impact.
Health claims are generally not permitted if a food contains more than 13g of fat, 4g of saturated fat, 60mg of cholesterol, or 480mg of sodium. Sugar and wholegrain content are not considered.

Companies may make nutrient function claims without notifying FDA, but such claims must be truthful and not misleading. Dietary guidance statements (e.g., "Doctors recommend 3 servings of whole grains per day") are also permitted without FDA pre-approval but must be truthful and not misleading.

Table last updated: 24/06/2014

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