Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is a statutory authority in the Australian Government Health portfolio. FSANZ develops food standards for Australia and New Zealand.
The Code is enforced by state and territory departments, agencies and local councils in Australia; the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for food imported into Australia.
Understanding food labels
The national food standards body (FSANZ) provides information to help consumers understand all the food labelling requirements, and how to read food labels. How to read a food label >
Specific labelling requirements
See the sections below for information on specific food labelling requirements as per FSANZ standards.
SOURCE INFORMATION: Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) >
- Use by and best before dates
- Country of origin labelling
- Allergen labelling
- Food additive labelling
- GM food labelling
- Health claims (nutrition, health and related claims)
- Ingredient lists and percentage labelling
- Fish labelling
- Labelling for religious, environmental, animal welfare and other consumer value issues
- Nutrition information panels
- Truth in labelling
- Warning and advisory statements
- Health advisory labels on alcoholic beverages
- State based laws
Use by and best before dates
Date marks give a guide to how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate or may become unsafe to eat.
The two types of date marking are use by dates and best before dates. The food supplier is responsible for placing a use by or best before date on food.
Use by and best before dates are compulsory forms of date marking. All packaged food with a shelf life of 2 years or less must have a date mark.
- Use by—used for food that must be consumed before a certain date for health and safety reasons.
- Best before—used for shelf-stable foods such as biscuits and confectionery, frozen foods, most raw foods that will be cooked before being eaten (e.g. meat, chicken, fish) or foods that will noticeably spoil before becoming a safety issue.
Other forms of date marking
Bread with a shelf life of less than 7 days may use the following forms of date mark instead of a ‘Best Before’ date:
- ‘Baked On’ or ‘Bkd on’ date— the date on which the bread was baked.
- ‘Baked For’ or ‘Bkd for’ date— a date not more than 12 hours after the time the bread was baked.
Country of origin food labelling
Many consumers want information about where their food comes from. It is against the law for suppliers to mislead you about the country of origin of products.
On 1 July 2016, a new country of origin food labelling system commenced under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). It applies to food offered for retail sale in Australia, including in stores or markets, online or from a vending machine. The law does not apply to food sold in places like restaurants, cafes, take-away shops, schools, or to food provided by caterers.
Businesses were given two years to sell current stock and change their labels to comply with the new law before it became mandatory on 1 July 2018.
Under the new system, most foods that are produced, grown or made in Australia are required to display a label with:
• the kangaroo in a triangle symbol so you can easily and quickly identify the food’s Australian origin
• a statement indicating that the food was grown, produced or made in Australia
• the minimum proportion, by ingoing weight, of Australian ingredients, indicated by a percentage amount and shown in a bar chart.
Labelling requirements will vary depending on the type of food product and whether it was grown, produced, made or packed in Australia or another country.
For most imported food (food grown, produced, made or packaged in a country other than Australia), the country of origin needs to be specified on the labelling in a clearly defined box.
To find out more visit: www.foodlabels.industry.gov.au
- ‘Product of’ and ‘Grown in’
‘Product of’ and ‘Grown in’ means that each significant ingredient or component of the product originated in or was grown in the country claimed and all, or almost all, of the production and manufacturing processes occurred in that country. ‘Product of’ is often used for processed food and ‘Grown in’ is mostly used for fresh food.
- ‘Made in’
‘Made in’ means that the product was made, or ‘substantially transformed’, in the country claimed, and at least 50 per cent of the cost to produce the product was incurred in that country. Substantial transformation means that the product has undergone a fundamental change in form, appearance or nature to create a new and different product. Certain processes such as slicing, canning, freezing or crumbing will generally not be considered a substantial transformation, and so will generally not be enough to support a claim that a product was ‘made in’ a particular country.Note: the Government is proposing further changes to the ACL that will affect made in claims, including removing the 50 per cent production cost test and clarifying what substantial transformation means. ‘Made in’ claims relate to the production of an item rather than its content. This means that a product ‘made in’ a particular country could contain ingredients from other countries.Some companies currently use claims like ‘Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients’ on their products. Under the new labelling system, companies will be required to state the percentage of Australian ingredients in their product so that consumers know what proportion of the ingredients are local and what proportion is imported.
- Logos and symbols
Some food labels contain logos, symbols or pictures which may suggest a connection between the product and Australia. Examples include flags, animals, the Southern Cross or the map of Australia. Look closely at the label to determine whether these pictures refer to the origin of the food or the ownership of the company. There are a number of recognised logos which indicate where food has been made or grown, such as ‘Australian Made, Australian Grown’.
- Ownership claims
Some foods include claims on their labels such as ‘Proudly Australian owned’ or ‘100% Australian owned’. These statements are about the ownership of the company; they don’t indicate where the product was made or where its ingredients came from.
- Misleading labels
It is illegal for a business to make a claim, by words or images, that goods were grown, produced or made in a particular country when this was not the case.
- Requirements & tools for business
- False or misleading claims
- Where does your food come from?
- Food Standards Code
Allergen labelling requirements
Food labels help allergic consumers identify foods that contain allergens they need to avoid.
Products that frequently cause severe reactions have been identified. If any of these products are contained in a product that presence must be declared on the label:
- cereals containing gluten and their products, namely, wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt and their hybridised strains other than where these substances are present in beer and spirits
- crustacea and their products
- egg and egg products
- fish and fish products, except for isinglass derived from swim bladders and used as a clarifying agent in beer and wine
- milk and milk products
- peanuts and soybeans, and their products
- added sulphites in concentrations of 10mg/kg or more
- tree nuts and sesame seeds and their products other than coconut from the fruit of the palm Cocos nucifera
- bee pollen presented as a food, or a food containing bee pollen as an ingredient
- propolis presented as food, or food containing propolis as an ingredient
- royal jelly when presented as a food, or food containing royal jelly as an ingredient.
Some food labels may include a warning to show that the food product may inadvertently contain a food allergen, for example, ‘may contain traces of nuts’ or ‘made on the same equipment as products containing nuts’. This means that the manufacturer cannot be sure that the food doesn’t accidentally contain small amounts of the allergen.
These are not mandatory declarations, however if you are allergic to any of the foods mentioned in these warnings, you may wish to avoid these food products as a precautionary measure.
Food additive labelling
Food additives in most packaged food must be listed in the statement of ingredients on the label.
Most food additives must be listed by their class name followed by the name of the food additive or the food additive number, for example, Colour (Caramel I) or Colour (150a). Enzymes and most flavourings (or flavour) do not need to be named or identified by a food additive number and can be labelled by their class name only.
Some foods are not required to be labelled with a statement of ingredients, for example, unpackaged food, food contained in a small package.
Certain food allergens must be declared at all times when present in food as an ingredient, including food additives.MORE INFORMATION
GM food labelling
GM foods and ingredients (including food additives and processing aids) that contain novel DNA or novel protein must be labelled with the words ‘genetically modified’.
There are detailed laws outlining how genetically-modified foods or additives must be labelled.MORE INFORMATION
Nutrition content claims and health claims
Nutrition content claims and health claims are voluntary statements made by food businesses on labels and in advertising about a food. Standard 1.2.7 sets out the rules for food businesses choosing to make nutrition content claims and health claims.
Nutrition content claims are claims about the content of certain nutrients or substances in a food, such as low in fat or good source of calcium. These claims will need to meet certain criteria set out in the Standard. For example, with a ‘good source of calcium’ claim, the food needs to contain at least the amount of calcium specified in the Standard.
- General level health claims refer to a nutrient or substance in a food, or the food itself, and its effect on health.
- High level health claims refer to a nutrient or substance in a food and its relationship to a serious disease or to a biomarker of a serious disease.
High level health claims must be based on a food-health relationship pre-approved by FSANZ. There are currently 13 pre-approved food-health relationships for high level health claims listed in the Standard. All health claims are required to be supported by scientific evidence to the same degree of certainty, whether they are pre-approved by FSANZ or self-substantiated by food businesses.
Endorsements that are nutrition content claims or health claims will be permitted, provided the endorsing body meets requirements set out in the Standard.MORE INFORMATION
Ingredient lists and percentage labelling
Ingredients must be listed in descending order (by ingoing weight). This means that when the food was manufactured, the first ingredient listed contributed the largest amount and the last ingredient listed contributed the least. Sometimes compound ingredients are used in a food. A compound ingredient is an ingredient made up of two or more ingredients e.g. canned spaghetti in tomato sauce, where the spaghetti is made up of flour, egg and water.
Most packaged foods have to carry labels which show the percentage of the key or characterising ingredients or components in the food. This allows you to compare similar products.MORE INFORMATION
Kilojoule menu labelling provisions – QLD
From 24 March 2016 fast food chains in Queensland who sell standard food items at either 20 outlets in Queensland or 50 outlets nationally are required to display the average energy content in kilojoules of each standard food item for sale along with the statement ‘the average adult daily energy intake is 8,700 kJ’.
Businesses are required to display the information on in-store menus (including menu boards, printed menus, drive-through menu boards and individual name/price tags), online ordering websites, mobile phone applications and printed menus distributed to households. The requirements do not apply to digital and printed materials not intended to enable ordering, such as supermarket catalogues.
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