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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, Nicaragua
Hong Kong, SAR
Israel
MERCOSUR countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela)
Mexico
New Zealand
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 An EU-wide regulation 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.
Malaysia A list of the nutrient content must be provided on select categories of packaged foods. This includes bread, dairy products, canned food, fruit juices, salad dressings and soft drinks, as set out in the 2010 Malaysian Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims.
South Korea A nutrient list must be provided on select categories of pre-packaged foods, including retort packages, cookies/candies/popsicles, breads & dumplings, chocolates, jams, oils, noodles & pasta, drinks & beverages, and foods of special use.
Mandatory labeling 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 No 1169/2011 shall apply.

INFORMATION UPDATED 10/03/2014
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. 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.

INFORMATION UPDATED 10/03/2014
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, Norway The EU-wide regulation on the “Provision of Food Information to Consumers” permits EU Member States to develop voluntary guidelines for front of pack nutrition information. Different styles of presentation (e.g. % Guideline Daily Allowances or traffic lights) are permitted. This regulation must also be applied in Iceland and Norway as members of the European Free Trade Agreement participating in the European single market.
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.

INFORMATION UPDATED 10/03/2014
Belgium
Czech Republic
Netherlands
Poland
The 'Choices' logo is widely used in these countries. Choices is a voluntary, industry-initiated scheme which identifies healthier options. Products must meet nutritional criteria set by an independent committee.
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.
Singapore The government has a 'Healthier Choice' symbol with defined nutrition criteria. Food manufacturers and retailers can voluntarily use the label on front-of-pack for products that meet 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 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").
On-shelf labelling Pacific Islands Where high-fat meats are sold in Fiji and Solomon Islands, a law requires them to be accompanied by on-shelf labelling (not widely implemented).
Calorie labelling on menus and displays in out-of-home venues 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.
United States The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010) requires that all chain restaurants with 20 or more establishments display energy information on menus. The Food and Drug Administration has yet to issue the implementing rules. Four states (e.g. California), five countries (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 menu 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, 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 course or side options that meet or exceed all of the established nutrition criteria.
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 from 2010.
Warning labels Chile In 2012, the Chilean government approved a “Law of Food Labeling 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 the 1993. The legislation is applied to all the food categoriesthat 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 and
Norway
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). Nutrition claims can only be used on foods defined as “healthy” by a nutrient profile (nutrient profile not yet defined). This regulation applies in Iceland and Norway as members of the European Free Trade Agreement participating in the European single market.
Indonesia Regulation HK.03.1.23.11.11.09909 (2011) on “The Control of Claims on Processed Food Labeling and Advertisements” establishes rules on the use of specified nutrient content claims (i.e. levels of fat for a low fat claim). The regulation appears to limit the use of claims to processed foods which meet nutrient criteria (maximum levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium).
Malaysia The Malaysian Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims (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.
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 s 15(1) of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics, and Disinfectants Act (by means of regulations of 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 for 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 put 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 labeling). 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. 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
Norway
Regulation 1924/2006 establishes EU-wide rules on the use of nutrient function and disease risk reduction claims. Companies may only use health claims that are substantiated and authorised by the European Commission and Member States. 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 by applicants – companies which want to submit claims for authorisation in the EU. Health claims can only be used on foods defined as healthy by a nutrient profile (nutrient profile not yet defined). This Regulation also applies in Iceland and Norway as members of the European Free Trade Agreement participating in the European single market.
Indonesia Regulation HK.03.1.23.11.11.09909 (2011) on “The Control of Claims on Processed Food Labeling and Advertisements” permits a limited number of listed nutrient function and disease risk reduction claims. The Regulation appears to limit the use of claims to processed foods which meet nutrient criteria (maximum levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium).
South Korea The rules for the use of health claims are set under Section 3 (Standards, Specifications, Labeling and Advertisements) of the Health Functional Food Act.
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, or480mg 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: 10/03/2014

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