A good start on fat claims but there's room for improvement
CHOICE has welcomed a proposal to crack down on ‘fat free’ and ‘percentage fat free’ claims on unhealthy products but the people’s watchdog says the proposed rules must extend to all fat content claims on food labels to avoid creating a big fat loophole.
The rules proposed in a Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) consultation on health and nutrition claims would mean that manufacturers prevented from making a ‘percentage fat free’ claim could re-word the claim to ‘percentage fat’ to avoid regulatory oversight.
“CHOICE is particularly concerned that under the current proposal, a product would have to meet nutrition criteria to claim ‘99% fat-free’ but would have no restrictions about claiming ‘1% fat’. That would be a strange outcome,” says CHOICE spokesperson, Ingrid Just.
CHOICE launched a major campaign against dodgy health and nutrition claims in late 2011, compiling the ‘Wall of Shame’ to show how these claims are used selectively to highlight healthy attributes of products with high levels of saturated fat, sugars and sodium.
“We applaud ministers for moving to crack down on ‘fat free’ and ‘percentage fat free’ claims as there is clear evidence that this marketing spin is used selectively and makes healthy choices more difficult for Australian shoppers,” says Ms Just.
“But the risk is that by ignoring percentage fat claims such as 1% fat, along with similar claims like ‘low-fat’, ‘reduced fat’ and ‘less fat than,’ we create a big fat loophole that could undermine this long-overdue move.”
CHOICE is calling on food and health ministers to expand the proposed regulations to all fat content claims and commit to reviewing these measures with the option of extending regulation to all nutrition claims.
“It’s time we knocked the healthy halo off these unhealthy products and allowed consumers to make easy, informed decisions about the food they eat every day,” says Ms Just.
Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669