You may have noticed a difference in the packaging and labelling of food you have recently purchased. Packaged foods now clearly display their sugar, fat and sodium content – whether you want to know or not!

On December 2002, the Food Standards Code (‘Code’) became compulsory in New Zealand.

What to Expect with the Food Standards Code

You can expect to see the following information on any food package after 2 December:

  • A best before or use by date this applies only to products with a shelf life of less than two years.
  • A full list of ingredients – in descending order from largest to smallest ingredient.
  • Nutritional information – ignorance was bliss.
  • Percentage Labeling

Exempt Foods

It is not practical for all food types to comply with the new labelling requirements, and the Code recognises this with a number of exemptions. The exceptions are – unpacked foods, foods packaged in presence of the purchaser, fruit, vegetables, meat (such as butchery products), take-away or delivered food, and food sold at fundraising events.

GM Foods

The Code prohibits the sale of food using gene technology unless the GM ingredient falls within a limited number of exemptions. Genetically modified food products are those produced using gene technology which contains novel DNA and/or novel protein or has altered characteristics.

‘Genetically Modified’ must be clearly displayed where approved genetically modified ingredients have been used.

Restrictions are also placed on the irradiation of food, with irradiation being permitted only on a number of very limited food types such as Herbs and Spices.

Food Standards

The Code sets specific standards for certain food types such as meat and dairy products. Standards include a minimum 25% fat in sausages (by weight). The presence of offal must also be declared.

Help for Allergy Sufferers

Prior to December 2002 food allergy sufferers could be playing Russian Roulette with their packaged foods. Consumers with food allergies will now be able to tell at a glance what they are eating. The presence of common allergy-causing foods such as nuts, shellfish, eggs and cereals in a food product must be clearly displayed on the label.

Nutritional Claims

The Code also determines when certain claims can be made about a product’s nutritional benefits. Packaging has often carried claims about nutritional properties such as ‘Omega’ content and low fat or sugar levels. The Code regulates and restricts such claims. The Code now defines exactly when claims can be made about the omega fatty acid content, low-joule claims and lactose, gluten and salt content claims.

In Summary

By reading the nutritional panel or label you can now expect to know exactly how many calories and grams of fat and protein you are consuming with each serving whether you want to know or not!

DISCLAIMER: All information in this newsletter is to the best of the authors’ knowledge true and accurate. No liability is assumed by the authors, or publishers, for any losses suffered by any person relying directly or indirectly upon this newsletter. It is recommended that clients should consult a senior representative of the firm before acting upon this information.