The Legal Side of Labels

Image supplied by Matthews Australasia

Working out how to label your product can be a big task. Once you have settled on the technical labelling solution that works best for your product, you still have to figure out what to put on the label.

Written by John Thisgaard

The content of food labels is largely determined by three sources. The first of these, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, provides for most of the technical information. It sets out what must be included in ingredient lists and nutrition panels, and how they are to be presented. It also sets out circumstances in which a health or nutrition content claim may be made.

Secondly, the Australian Consumer Law broadly prohibits conduct, including labels, that can mislead or deceive consumers. This can cover misleading marketing statements, the use of images on labels, or even the arrangement of labels on a packet. For instance, it may be misleading to make a prominent statement on the front of pack and then qualify this statement with a much less prominent label on the back.

Finally, an area receiving much recent attention is Country of Origin information. New laws have been introduced that will become compulsory on 1 July 2018. These new laws are found within an Information Standard made under the Australian Consumer Law and introduce a series of changes to how origin declarations must appear on labels.

Most notably, the information to be displayed depends on whether a food has been classed as “priority” or “non-priority”. A bar chart is now used to indicate the proportion of Australian content, and whether food can claim to be “Made in Australia” now depends solely on where it was last “substantially transformed”. Food companies will need to be across these changes in order to get the best value from their labelling solution.

About the author: John Thisgaard

John works at FoodLegal, which specialises in food regulation and offers services in food law, regulatory compliance, education and training.