Bill targets unhealthy food ads

30 July 2007

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has published new regulations regarding the labeling and advertising of foodstuffs, in an effort to increase awareness and promote a healthier lifestyle among South Africans, especially children.

“The current Regulations on the Advertising and Labelling of Foodstuffs were promulgated in 1993 and have to be replaced to strengthen effectiveness, close all known ‘loopholes’ and incorporate new developments in scientific research,” the health department states in a press release last week.

The draft regulations aim to improve public health through healthy food choices and improved nutrition through special food formulations, which are based on the latest scientific evidence.

Allergens that have to be clearly labelled will also be increased from the current two to nine.

“As the health literacy rate of our population increases, so does the importance of food labelling and the role that it can play in assisting consumers with reliable label information to make informed choices about healthier food options,” the department says

“Healthier food choices are an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.”

The regulations will make it necessary for food and beverage producers to provide information such as date markings, country of origin and batch identification as well as specific nutritional information on food labels.

“A better and more detailed guidance in terms of prohibited statements has been incorporated to deal with challenges of consumer deception and use of misleading information,” the department says.

The new regulations will also ensure the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation’s global strategy on diet, physical activity and health is implemented in South Africa.

This is likely to have a major impact on the way foodstuffs and beverages are advertised, as the use of health and nutritional claims for foods that have been identified as non-essential to a healthy lifestyle will be prohibited.

Examples of foods non-essential to a healthy lifestyle are given as carbonated drinks, all sugar confectionary, all chocolate confectionary, potato crisps and fast foods of certain specifications.

Furthermore, such foods or beverages cannot be advertised or promoted to children or on school tuck shop or and school or pre-school premises.

According to the department, the new regulations will mean that such foods “shall not advertise in any manner, including the label of a foodstuff, to a child younger than 16 years or use a child actor younger than 16 years or use any cartoon-type character or puppet, computer animation or similar strategy or token or gift, in order to encourage the use of such foodstuff”.

The identified foodstuffs will also have to carry labels that warn the consumer to use the produce in moderation, and that excessive consumption on a regular basis may lead to poor health.

The department is calling on all role players, including manufacturers, consumer groups and the general public to comment on the new draft regulations relating to the labelling and advertising of foodstuffs, in terms of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act (Act 54 of 1972), by October 2007. reporter

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