REPLACEMENT TERM ‘VERY LOW’
Many submitters agreed that if ‘free’ claims are to be prohibited given advice from the ACCC and NZCC, then a replacement term like ‘very low’ with CoPoNC criteria would be an appropriate alternative (Goodman Fielder, Coles, FBIA, MLA, ACCC, CHC, SA Dept Human Services, Diabetes Australia, DAA, Rosemary Stanton, Griffins, Tatua, Cerebos). Tatua questioned whether it would be appropriate to align the provisions for a ‘low’ lactose or gluten claim with a ‘very low’ claim as is permitted for fat and other nutrients.
In contrast a large number of submitters specifically opposed a replacement term for ‘free’ (ASA, NZ Nutrition Foundation, Nestlé, Unilever, Danisco USA, Arnott’s, ADC & ADPF, AFGC, Food Liaison, MGC, NHF Australia). The main reasons were that ‘very low’ claims would be misleading as
there is either no nutrient or an insignificant amount present;
it is meaningless to consumers;
it is not used internationally;
it would create NIP labelling difficulties as the specific amount would have to be declared;
it could result in consumers avoiding products because ‘very low’ has a different meaning to ‘free’;
it could result in the perception that products have been reformulated and an increased amount of a nutrient is now present.
NZ Nutrition Foundation opposed the term because of the large number of allowable claims. NHF Australia suggested that alternative terms should be consumer tested, such as ‘minimal’. Food Liaison considered ‘99.9% free’ preferable to ‘very low’, while InforMed Systems suggested ‘nutritionally insignificant’ or ‘negligible’.
Griffins advised that clarification is needed on claims such as ‘excellent source of energy from carbohydrates’. Their preferred criteria for such a claim were for a maximum percentage level for fat and sugar, 30% energy from fat and <10% of its average energy from saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids, and a similar criterion to the ‘reduced sugar’ claim.
Several submitters commented on the units of expression for energy. InforMed Systems was concerned about the use of ‘joule’ rather than the readily understood term ‘calorie’, but conceded that it is now too late to reverse back. FTA Vic believed that ‘calorie’ claims should not be a permitted claim as consumers should now be aware of the term ‘joule’, but recommended use of ‘calorie’ or ‘cal’ in the nutrition information panel.
LOW (IN) ENERGY/JOULE/CALORIE
Most submitters who provided comment on this claim supported it (AFGC, Dairy Farmers, FTA Vic, CHC, Goodman Fielder, SA Dept Human Services, NZ Nutrition Foundation, Tatua, ADHB, NZDA, CMA, Nestlé and Unilever), noting that the claim has only recently been reviewed and incorporated into Volume 2.
Food Liaison, however, suggested that although the Codex position has been proposed for ‘low energy/joule/calorie’ claims, consideration could be given to the approach adopted by the US and Canada, which permits an increased energy level for products like jams and confectionary that are consumed in small amounts. Natural Products was of the view that the claim should be expressed on a percentage basis rather than different values being provided for beverages and solid foods. SA Dept Human Services queried when calorie claims would be removed.
REDUCED (IN) ENERGY
There was support for ‘reduced energy/joule/calorie’ claims and the proposed criteria from the AFGC, Dairy Farmers, FTA Vic Goodman Fielder, CHC, SA Dept Human Services, Tatua, NZDA, CMA, Nestlé and Unilever on the basis that it is consistent with other proposed comparative claims and with Codex recommendations. The NZDA also noted that because overweight and obesity are well recognised as epidemic in New Zealand, such claims can be useful. Although the ADHB and the NZ Nutrition Foundation supported the claim, they preferred the NZFR criteria for reduced claims ‘of at least one third less compared with its normal counterpart’. Natural Products recommended that the nutrition information for the reference food be included in the NIP. Mainland Products and FTA Vic advised that energy declarations in the nutrition information panel should be expressed as calories as well as kilojoules.
In addition to the comments made by submitters who opposed the prohibition of ‘free’ claims, the AFGC, Natural Products, Nestlé and Unilever specifically opposed the prohibition of ‘calorie free’. The AFGC recommended that the current Codex provisions be adopted while Natural Products believed the claim should be permitted with zero tolerance. FTA Vic, CHC, SA Dept Human Services, Tatua, ADHB and NZDA supported the proposed drafting.
National Foods, SA Dept Human Services, ADHB and the NZDA opposed protein claims mainly on the basis that protein intakes are much higher than required. The NZDA believed that protein claims could easily be misinterpreted in terms of biological value and associated fat content.
HIGH (IN) PROTEIN
Seven submitters supported the claim and its proposed criteria (AFGC, CHC, GWF, Griffins, InforMed Systems, Natural Products, Tatua). However others had concerns with the proposed criteria. Diabetes Australia, MGC, MLA, National Foods, DAA and ADC & ADPF argued that because the criteria do not address protein quality, foods such as milk and cheese, which contribute significantly to protein intake, will not meet the proposed requirement, whereas some plant derived foods that may not necessarily contain most or all essential amino acids in sufficient quantities will. Karen Cashel and National Foods also justified the need for protein quality as a criterion because of its importance for certain age groups such as children. Horelys did not believe the %DRV criteria would be appropriate for active sports people who have higher requirements and noted that powdered protein supplements contain much higher amounts than the proposed 10% by weight for solid foods. In contrast, SA Dept Human Services noted that the demand for such foods by some people in the fitness industry is unjustified.
Alternative recommendations were to base criteria on:
‘per serving’ rather than ‘per 100g’. ADC &ADPF and MGC preferred a framework similar to that used for fibre claims, which are based on %RDI. MLA, DAA, HWA and Diabetes Australia suggested a minimum of 10 g protein per serving, which equates to two times the Codex value for ‘source of protein’. HWA argued that ‘per serve’ is consistent with vitamin and mineral claims and with voluntary Percentage Daily Intake information for macronutrients. It also stated that baked beans and other legumes recommended for vegetarian diets have higher serving sizes than for meat, fish and chicken, which compensates for the lower relative protein content.
a proportion of energy rather than absolute content (Dairy Farmers).
NZFR criteria (MoH NZ).
While Tatua believed that consumers would check the Nutrition Information Panel for fat if it were of concern, it stated that if a disqualifier is applied to fibre claims, then a similar approach should be considered for ‘high protein’ claims.
In addition to those who opposed all protein claims, FTA Vic and NZ Beef and Lamb opposed ‘high protein’ claims on the basis that there is no dietary evidence for the claims and no perceived benefit.