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The major changes between R146 and the newly-updated draft labelling regulations

The (new, new, new, new) draft labelling regulations – what a whirlwind! FACTS SA lays out the differences between R146 and R3337 – a great guide to what every foodbev producer needs to know!

The winds of change began to blow at the end of January this year when a draft was published proposing changes to the current regulations relating to the labelling and advertising of foodstuffs (R146).

The initial draft was first followed by a notification that the incorrect version had been published. Thereafter, a version without the Minister’s signature was published (14 June 2023); the incorrect regulation number was given to the subsequent version (21 June 2023); and lastly, the guidelines were not available to review until 30 May.

The final version that should be used for comment is numbered R3337, and comments should be sent to the Department of Health by 21 July 2023.

Throughout all of this, the industry has been scrambling to try and understand exactly what the implications are of the draft, and what effect it will have on their businesses.

FACTS SA has hosted two workshops during this period; in each, a side-by-side comparison of R146 and the draft was conducted, assisting the industry to understand what is being proposed so that we can all formulate comments to the Department.

R3337 proposes a few significant changes. It is important for the food industry to consider (in particular) how these may affect their products, and to submit comments where necessary:

General provisions (from page 27):

  • Every ingredient, additive or substance used in the manufacturing of a foodstuff must have a supplier ingredient information file.
  • No complementary medicine may be used in or referred to in any manner on the label of a foodstuff.
  • The regulations specify which herbs may be used in foods and which not.
  • White lettering on any background colour except black is prohibited.
  • The minimum letter size is not less than 1.2mm vertical height.
  • Date marking options are ‘Use by date <insert date>’ or ‘Best quality before date <insert date>’ only, with some specific exceptions where only a ‘Date of manufacture <insert date>’ or ‘Date of packaging <insert date>’ is required. However, all foods must include a manufacturing date.
  • Imported foodstuffs must have a minimum of 12 months before the end of a ‘Best quality before date’ and may not be sold beyond this date.
  • Alcohol-free and de-alcoholised wine are defined and labelling requirements are included.

Special provisions (from page 44):

  • Single-ingredient agricultural commodities which have the natural ability to colour a food may be called a natural colouring food in the list of ingredients.
  • QUID (Quantitative Ingredient Declaration) for raw-processed meat and other agricultural products for which compositional standards or regulations already exist is further expanded on.
  • Where caffeine as such is added to any foodstuff (solids and beverages) the word ‘energy’ may not be used in the name and descriptor of the foodstuff. Foods with added caffeine require caffeine content and a warning statement to be indicated on the label.
  • Food additives shall be labelled with its function plus the common name or E-number in the following manner: ‘Colourant: Allura red’ / ‘Colourant: E129’ OR ‘Allura red (Colourant)’ / ‘E129 (Colourant)’
  • Sulphites is added as a new common allergen; common allergens must be indicated in bold font, cross-reactive allergens such as lupin must carry warnings, and some ingredients derived from common allergens are exempted from allergen labelling.
  • All food labels must include the nutritional information table (with a few exceptions). There are some changes to the format, eg total carbohydrates with new sub-nutrients.
  • If a product as sold requires further processing (preparation, baking or cooking) after addition of ingredients not included in the foodstuff as sold, the nutritional information of the foodstuff prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions and ready to eat must be added in an additional column to the nutritional information.

General information on front of package labels, health and nutrition claims (from page 76):

  • Enriching of foodstuffs: some restrictions on which nutrients may be used and which foods may be enriched.
  • Any foodstuff offered for sale in any manner may only make a claim or use an endorsement logo if it successfully qualifies with the screening criteria of the Nutrient Profiling Model for health and nutritional claims.
  • No claims or endorsements permitted on a foodstuff which contains added fructose or artificial sweeteners unless certain evidence is provided to the Department.
  • Any foodstuff containing added fructose must bear a prescribed warning.
  • Pre-packaged foodstuffs are required to bear a Front-Of-Pack-Labelling (FOPL) logo if the food contains added saturated fat, added sugar, added sodium above certain cut-off values, or contain any artificial sweeteners. The FOPL logo must display it on the front of the pack / main panel and cover up to 25% of the front of pack package (specifications provided).
  • Any packaged food that carries a FOPL shall not be marketed to children according to a list of restrictions which includes depicting any celebrities and cartoon-type characters.
  • Food brands requiring FOPL and catering establishment that commonly sell foods that require FOPL may not sell, advertise or donate branded footwear, other clothing or other items. And catering establishments may not advertise food items to children if they are above the FOPL cut-offs (but need not carry a FOPL).

Nutrition claims (from page 87) & health claims (from page 108):

  • New types of claims permitted (with strict criteria and prescribed wording): Glycaemic Index & Glycaemic Load, wholegrain, prebiotic, nutrient function claims, reduction of disease risk claims and oral health claims. Slimming-related claims also have strict criteria and is only permitted for formulated meal replacement products.

Exemptions (from page 165):

  • Any drink regulated by the Liquor Products Act must indicate the common allergens if applicable.

Our shared goal is to ensure that in the end, the most appropriate food labelling regulations are published. These must be reasonable for the food industry, but above all must keep in mind the potential health impacts on the consumer.

Read more on the history of the South African labelling regulations, with guidance on how to submit your comments.

If you missed out on the FACTS SA workshops, feel free to contact the FACTS Regulatory & Nutrition team to assist you with your comments, along with any general questions you may have.

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