Food ingredients label is incredibly important, as it not only inform consumers to make informed choices but also help food businesses comply with regulatory standards.
Food organisations in Australia and New Zealand must include food ingredients labels on their products as per the standard format given by FSANZ (Food Safety Australia New Zealand) standard. It is therefore crucial that food Companies adhere to the requirements of the standard and help promote food safety and secure consumer health.
In this article, we will explore the importance of food ingredients labels and how they contribute to promoting consumer well-being.
Food Ingredients Label – Definition
Food ingredients labels are informational labels attached to food products that provide a list of all the ingredients present in the product. They serve the purpose of informing consumers about what they are consuming, helping them make informed choices about their food.
They list the particular contents of the product, including possible allergies, additives, and preservatives. This enables customers to make educated choices based on their nutritional needs, preferences, and probable allergies or sensitivities.
FSANZ and Food Ingredient Labelling
Food ingredient labelling is governed by FSANZ or Food Standards Australia New Zealand. The standard requires manufacturers to offer accurate and clear information about the ingredients in their goods. This protects customers, particularly those with allergies or dietary requirements.
Key Components of a Food Ingredients Label
A food ingredients label typically consists of several key components. These include the ingredient list, allergen information, nutritional facts, and any additional claims or certifications. All of these components provide consumers with comprehensive information about the product.
a) Nutrition Facts
The nutrition facts section on a food ingredients label gives important information about the amount of nutrients available in the product. Consumers may make educated decisions regarding the nutritional worth of the food they buy by reading this section.
b) Ingredients list
The ingredients list is a vital component of a food ingredients label as it lists all the ingredients used in the product. This information is important for individuals who have allergies or dietary restrictions, allowing them to identify any potential allergens or ingredients they need to avoid.
i) Largest Ingredient to be mentioned First
Ingredients must be mentioned in decreasing order (in terms of incoming weight), with the largest ingredient first. This signifies that throughout the manufacturing process, the first item mentioned contributed the most and the final ingredient listed contributed the least. For example, if sugar is towards the top of the ingredient list, the product has a higher amount of this component.
ii) For Products with added Water
If the product has added water, it must be stated in the ingredient list by its incoming weight, with an allowance made for any water lost during processing, such as steam. The only exceptions are when the water is added:
- accounts for less than 5% of the end product.
- is a component of a brine, broth, or syrup that appears on the ingredient list.
- is used to rehydrate dehydrated ingredients.
iii) For Compound Ingredients
Sometimes, food contains compound ingredients made from two or more other ingredients. For example, canned spaghetti in tomato sauce is made up of flour, egg, water, tomatoes, capsicum, onions, water, and herbs.
The list of all ingredients used in a compound ingredient must be declared, except when it is used in amounts less than 5% of the final food. For example, the tomato sauce on a frozen pizza could be a compound ingredient that is less than 5% of the final food.
However, if a component in a complex ingredient is a recognised allergy, it must be declared regardless of the amount used.
c) Percentage Labelling
Most packaged goods must have labels that show the percentage of key or distinguishing ingredients or components in the given product. This allows customers to compare similar goods.
Strawberries would be the distinguishing element in strawberry yoghurt, and the label would state, for example, 9% strawberries. Chocolate’s cocoa solids are an example of a distinguishing component.
However, some food items like white bread and cheese, may lack distinguishing ingredients or components.
d) Allergen information
Allergen labelling on food ingredient labels is crucial for consumers who have allergies or intolerances. This information emphasises frequent allergens contained in the product, allowing users to readily identify and avoid any substances that may cause harmful reactions.
Food Companies are advised to declare all allergens even if present in a small quantity.
e) Dietary Recommendations
Dietary guidelines on food component labels can help customers make educated eating choices based on their dietary requirements.
For example: These suggestions give useful information if the given product is a low-fat, low-sodium, or high-fiber diet, helping them choose accordingly.
f) Warning or advisory statements
Certain foods or components that may pose health risks to some people must have warning or caution statements. Aspartame, guarana, caffeine, and plant sterols are a few examples.
For example, foods containing royal jelly from bees should include a warning label that reads: ‘This product contains royal jelly, which has been linked to severe allergic responses and, in rare instances, deaths, especially in those with asthma and allergies.’
‘May Contain’ or ‘May be Present’ Statements
To prevent accidental allergen cross-contamination, food labels frequently feature statements such as “may contain” or “may be present.” These statements serve as a precautionary measure, warning consumers of possible allergens due to shared manufacturing or processing facilities. This practice, known as Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL), aims to provide an additional level of transparency for individuals with allergies.
These statements are voluntary and not regulated by the Food Standards Code. Food suppliers choose to include them as part of their promise to consumer safety.
g) Additional Information on Food Ingredients Labels
When reading food ingredients labels, there are several additional pieces of information that can help you make informed decisions about the products you consume. Understanding these aspects will allow you to choose food products that align with your health and dietary preferences.
Additives and preservatives are substances added to food products to enhance their taste, appearance, texture, or shelf life. They can also help prevent spoilage and maintain nutritional value. It is important to note that not all additives are harmful, as many of them undergo rigorous testing for safety before being approved for use.
Some additives and preservatives, particularly in large quantities or when coupled with certain health conditions, may have potential health implications. Examples include artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and certain food colourings. It is advisable to familiarise yourself with these additives/preservatives if you have specific dietary concerns or restrictions.
ii) Organic/non-GM (Genetically Modified) labelling
Organic and non-GM labels indicate that a food product meets specific standards set by certification organisations. Organic labelling ensures that the product is produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, or certain chemical fertilizers.
Non-GM labelling indicates that the product does not contain genetically modified ingredients. Understanding these labels can help you choose products that align with your preferences for sustainable and natural food options.
Difference between Organic and Non-GMO Certifications:
While both organic and non-GM certifications focus on promoting natural and sustainable practices, they have different criteria. Organic certifications cover the entire production process, including farming methods, processing, and packaging. Non-GMO certifications specifically attest that a product does not contain genetically modified organisms.
iii) Manufacturer/Brand information
Understanding the manufacturer/brand of a food product provides important information about its quality and safety. Established and reputable brands often prioritise sourcing high-quality ingredients and maintaining strict quality control standards. Furthermore, knowing the manufacturer/brand can also help you make informed decisions based on your personal experience with their products.
Certain manufacturers/brands have built a reputation for producing high-quality and safe food products. On the other hand, there may be instances where lesser-known or generic brands might not meet the same standards. By considering brand reputation, you can make choices that align with your expectations for product quality and safety.
By understanding these additional aspects of food ingredients labels, you can make informed decisions about the food products you consume, ensuring that they meet your dietary preferences and standards.
How can Food Businesses Comply with Food Ingredients Label Requirements as per FSANZ?
Food businesses can comply with Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) requirements for food ingredient labeling by following these steps:
1) Accurate Ingredient List:
Food Companies should provide a complete and accurate list of all ingredients used in the product, in descending order of weight or proportion.
2) Allergen Declaration:
Food organisations should clearly highlight and emphasise any allergens present in the product, as specified by FSANZ. This includes ingredients like nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.
3) Ingredient Names:
Food businesses should use recognised and standardized ingredient names that consumers can easily understand. FSANZ standard provides exact name usage for Companies to use as per the ingredient present. We advise to avoid using technical or ambiguous terms.
4) Quantitative Ingredients Declaration (QUID):
Furthermore, they should declare the percentage of certain ingredients emphasised in the product name (e.g., “Chocolate Chip Cookies”).
5) Country of Origin Labeling (CoOL):
If required, organisations can provide clear country of origin labelling to inform consumers about the origin of the product.
6) Nutrition Information Panel (NIP):
They should include accurate nutritional information, including serving size, energy content, macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates), and other nutrients as specified by FSANZ.
Anitech’s Food Safety consultants can help businesses create nutrient information panels for their products with the help of the Nutrition Information Calculator (NIC) provided by FSANZ. Our experts can also help you in using it in the right way to create an accurate NIP in the standard FSANZ format.
7) Date Marking:
Food businesses should include clear “best before” or “use by” dates to indicate product freshness and safety.
8) Language and Legibility:
They should ensure that the label is written in English or meets FSANZ language requirements. Anitech’s experts advise businesses to use legible fonts, appropriate font sizes, and high contrast for easy reading.
9) Allergen Cross-Contamination:
If there’s a risk of cross-contamination with allergens, Food Companies should provide appropriate warnings (e.g., “May contain traces of nuts”).
10) Compliance with Standards:
Food businesses should stay updated with the latest FSANZ regulations and guidelines to ensure ongoing compliance.
It’s important for food businesses to thoroughly understand FSANZ labelling requirements and to review their labels regularly to ensure accuracy and compliance.
Anitech’s experienced Food Consultants can help businesses navigate complex labelling regulations effectively.
For guidance, call us today at 1300 802 163 or e-mail – email@example.com