R146: Advantages and disadvantages for the consumer

South Africa’s new legislation related to food labelling and advertising, R146, become mandatory on 1 March 2012, and have been long-awaited by the food industry, the nutrition fraternity and the public alike. This useful article outlines their advantages for consumers, as well as several disadvantages. Compiled by Health24.com’s DietDoctor, Dr IV van Heerden…..

Advantages for consumers

The Regulations Relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs, No R 146 of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act 54 of 1972) have the following advantages (among others) for consumers:

• They specify a standard method of conveying information about foodstuffs to the consumer. As of next year, all food labels and advertising will have to conform to the same format. After 1 March 2012, all the superlatives and often ludicrous claims used on food labels and in advertising will disappear.

• They will ensure a fair comparison between products.

• They enforce truthful descriptions and prevent the propagation of misleading and ambiguous messages regarding the characteristics of the foods and beverages that are on sale to the public in South Africa.

• If a food manufacturer includes a ‘Typical Nutritional Information Table’ on a food label, he will be allowed to state that the given food is ‘A source of’, or ‘High in’ or ‘Low in’ or ‘Virtually free of’ or ‘Free of’ a given nutrient or nutrients. This will enable consumers to check which foods they elect to purchase if they are, for example, looking for foods that are low in fat or high in vitamins, etc.

• The specifications relating to allergens are well formulated and anyone with an allergy triggered by the so-called ‘common allergens’ (i.e. egg, cow’s milk, crustaceans and molluscs, fish, peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts and significant cereals, which include wheat, kamut, spelt, rye, barley, oats or crossbred hybrids of these cereals), will only have to check the list of ingredients to see at a glance if the food contains one or more of these allergens. Such food labels will also have to display a notice ‘Contains milk, etc’.

• The use of ‘No sugar added’ will be prohibited for all foods that inherently contain any type of sugar. Fruit juices, for example, which inherently contain high levels of fructose, fruit concentrates, etc, but no added table sugar, may thus no longer display a ‘No added sugar’ claim on their labels.

• No label may make a so-called ‘Negative content claim’ if all the foods in the same category are also free of the specific nutrient. This means that plant oils which presently state that they are ‘Cholesterol free’ as an advertising ploy, will have to change their statement to ‘A naturally cholesterol free food’ because all plant oils are actually free of cholesterol.

Disadvantages for consumers

Regulations No. R 146 do, however, have a number of weaknesses which may disadvantage consumers in this country. One of the most serious drawbacks is that fact that a whole range of food product label and advertising issues are not yet addressed in R. 146, and theoretically all the food properties listed below will not be able to be communicated to the public after 1 March 2012……

Health24.com: Read the full article