About the Nutrient Profile Calculator for health claims

The NPM Calculator, which is basically a software application, will likely be used in South Africa to determine whether a food product may make any kind of health claim on its label.

It will probably be used as the primary benchmark, or precondition, that all or most food products will have to pass, before it could consider any kind of health claim. The purpose of it in the South African context is to “sift out” the unhealthy products in the market place to exclude them from making any health claim.

For example a product that is unacceptably high in sodium will typically not be eligible to make any health claim such as Low Fat, Low in Calories or Low GI – the NPM Calculator will show that the product is unacceptable.

The model is based on work done by M Rayner and colleagues of the UK as adapted by the UK Food Standards Agency with modifications by the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).

The system is simple enough for product developers and nutritionists to use and a lot of work is done to see that the SA calculator will be very user friendly. It is web-based, transparent and free of charge to any user at any time. A draft version is already running at www.respond.za.net

The NPM Calculator evaluation of a food product will not be the only measurement, but has to be seen as complementary to the conditions regarding health claims already described and published in R146 clauses 51-53.

The GI Foundation of SA (GIFSA) supports the use of the NPM Calculator as a food product evaluation tool in the process of evaluating product for possible health claims. There is a lot to like about the NPC, especially when the alternatives are considered.

The previous attempt to table such a proposal, which consisted of the Annexure 6 of the Draft Regulations published 2007, prompted a decidedly negative reaction from the industry. The NPM Calculator is fairly simple to understand, it is accessible and does not leave obvious loopholes in the nutritional rationale on which it is based.

Other provisos that would include products, that do not pass the NPC test, as well as more provisos that would exclude a NPC-vetted product, is likely to be part of the eventual legislative package. However, the Department will probably attempt to limit these and keep the food product assessment process as simple as possible, as they should be.

Source: The GI Foundation of SA