Food Labelling and Superfoods:

Superfoods sometimes promise a lot, but do they deliver? And – as a retail food industry business owner the question may be – do they legally have to deliver?

Well, yes and no…

Some Superfoods are truly amazing. Did you know that Kombucha can assist in

  • improved digestion
  • weight loss
  • detoxing of the body
  • increased energy
  • reducing joint pain

There is no definition of ‘Superfood’ in Australia…

In Europe, the term ‘Superfood’ has been banned from labels altogether unless it is accompanied by a specific authorised health claim that explains to the consumer why the product is good for their health.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a Superfood is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”, which “very good for your health and may even help some medical conditions”. If you are going to market your product as a superfood in Australia, keep this definition in mind.

Comply with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ):

There were new rules recently introduced in the FSANZ regarding health claims made in food labelling and promotion. Any health claim now needs to be supported by strong scientific evidence.

So if your Superfood really is a hero product and has proven scientific evidence supporting certain health claims, then go ahead and label accordingly! But if your Superfood has mixed scientific evidence backing certain claims, and you are relying on unverified claims, exaggeration or mythology – be careful.

For more general health claims, you may ‘self-substantiate’ the evidence, meaning your business can come up with the proof or support as to the health claim made with no government authorisation, as long as you do not make claims about curing serious disease.

Claimed Health Benefits – Curing Diseases and Illnesses:

Under the new Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) rules – you must not claim that your superfood can cure, or assist in curing serious diseases such as heart disease or cancer.

Cannot Make Misleading or Deceptive Comments:

FSANZ also prohibits false, misleading or deceptive representations on food labels (which is of course also prohibited under the Australian Consumer Law). At the moment, Australia needs further food regulation in order to protect consumers from possibly misleading health claims – there is currently too much disparity between promises made on labelling and proven scientific evidence.

Further regulation will occur at some stage – be ready for it by not making false claims in the first place.

How to label your superfoods appropriately:

  • Currently, , the rules are relying on your business to do the right thing. However State food authorities will investigate if there are complaints made by consumers about your product. Making self-substantiated misleading or false claims might be made but just think of the terrible reputation you would give your business and superfood products if you were investigated and found out (and in addition you also risk penalties for breaching the ACL).
  • Many Superfoods currently on the market in Australia do over-exaggerate health benefits, and many rely on some dodgy science. You may choose to join them, or market your product with integrity – and maintain a strong customer base that appreciates your quality Superfoods, rather than feeling disappointed by them.
  • Use imagery to advertise your product too – if you want to engage consumers with an exotic or mystical Superfood, relevant images on your label may speak louder than words to your consumer, without any false claims made.

To get in touch with one of our lawyers, you can book a free 15 minute chat here.

This is general advice only. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation. 

Published Feb 27, 2018

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