Aligning the regulations on fat spreads

How much fat is in that marge? Consumers will soon know the percentage of fat in bread spreads they buy in line with revised rules that will be imposed on margarine manufacturers by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

In a Business Report article, Niel Erasmus of the directorate of food safety and quality assurance in the department, has said the regulations had been revised to fix discrepancies between the definitions of the Department of Health, which says low fat spreads must have less than 3 percent fat while the agriculture department put the threshold at 35 percent.

Most consumers believed labels showing low fat meant a fat content of 3 percent or less, Erasmus said.

The class names medium fat spread and low fat spread and their fat ranges would ultimately fall away during the interim period, which started in March and ends next March.

The new draft regulations stipulate that no company may sell bread spreads as low-fat spread or medium-fat spread. Instead it would be replaced by a percentage system accompanied by clear intended usages of products in order for consumers to make informed and healthy decisions.

In the revised classification, margarine can contain between 80 percent and 90 percent fat. All fatty spreads would be marked with maximum fat contents of 75 percent, 50 percent or 20 percent.

The classification system for fat spreads, in use in South Africa since March 1990, classified margarine as containing between 80 percent and 86 percent fat, medium-fat spread at 50 percent to 65 percent, and low-fat spread between 35 percent and 45 percent. In addition, yellow fat spreads may contain only plant fat or oils.

“Consumers will see these changes on the labels, which will include intended uses such as whether a spread is intended for baking, spread or grilling.

“The classification is the same for the white fat spreads, except that these spreads may contain a mixture of plant, animal and marine oils and fats,” Erasmus added.

Firms that did not comply with the regulation period would be granted an extension depending on their circumstances, while some could be penalised, but the aim was to achieve co-operation.

Source: Business Report