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The low-down on Health Claims and Health Star Rating for oils and fats

Anny Dentener-Boswell, FNZIFST, ADECRON Food Tech Consulting

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How do the health claim changes in the food regulations and the new health star ratings (HSR) impact oils and fats?

Health star ratings are progressively appearing on labels as the supermarkets label their own-brand products with it. So will your product stand out by not declaring its HSR?

Not all oils are what they seem

From the results in the table below, we can see that there is a wide range of choices on “healthiness” from the lowest ½ star for salted butter up to the highest 4½ stars for hazelnut and canola oils and lots of choices in between.

 

For these oils/fats only baseline (=“penalty”) points for energy, saturated fat and sodium play a part in the scoring on the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC). Baseline points for sugars and modifying (=“bonus”) points for protein, fibre and FVNL (fruit vege nut legume%) aren’t relevant here. Oils and fats are in Category 3, so need to score less than 28 points on the NPSC to be allowed to make health claims and get at least three health stars. Surprising for most people in my recent Christchurch NZIFST FIT workshop was that rice bran oil with its healthy image actually seems to miss the cut and wouldn’t be able to make health claims. The cut off points for claim permission for oils is at the >3350kJ or >18.0g/100ml saturated fat mark.

So what else is in the new standard 1.2.7 and 1.2.8 that impacts oils and fats?

 

1. No vegetable oil or fat can make a free of or low cholesterol claim anymore as they cannot comply with the requirement to have low saturated fat levels (max 0.75g/100ml liquid food or 1.5g/100g solid food). You can’t even list it in the nutrition panel because a non-compulsory declaration such as cholesterol is still a claim so must comply. Why this rule if there is no cholesterol? It is saturated and trans fat that mainly impacts blood cholesterol, not dietary cholesterol.

 

2. Trans-fat can be listed at any level in the NIP without it being a claim if no further text claims are made about it on the label (See 1.2.8. clause 19). In that case it isn’t necessary either to list mono- and polyunsaturated fats. This facilitates export to countries where trans-fat listing is compulsory. The only claims permitted for trans-fat are free or reduced/light. Low is not permitted. ((Standard 1.2.7 clause 11(5)).

 

3. Reduced/light claims have to state a reference food which has to be from the same food group. In this case that is “fats, including edible oils and edible oil spreads”. So you can’t compare oil-based spreads with cream cheese (milk product) or peanut butter (legume product).

 

4. There are new nutrition content claim options around levels and “low proportion” of saturated and /or trans fatty acids. “Low proportion” may be hard for consumers to comprehend and therefore I suspect of limited marketing appeal.

 

5. Health claims are pre-approved for phytosterols, low saturated/trans fats, fat soluble vitamins, choline and DHA/EPA (heart only, not brain). To be able to make these claims, products need to pass the NPSC and comply with the nutrition content rules.

 

Continuing from the previous 1.2.8 standard or the Code of Practice are requirements around low/reduced fat/% fat free, mono-unsaturated fats, poly-unsaturated fats, omega-3, 6 and 9. The omega requirements are often not met, in particular for the nutrition content claim of a “3/6/9 balanced” oil. Both Omega-6 and Omega-9 need to be at least 40% of fatty acids to comply with that. Check out Standard 1.2.7 on the FSANZ website for the finer detail.

 

Nutrient Profiling Scores can be calculated on line here

Health star ratings can be calculated online, which then also provides the “vector” artwork for the label designer or use the latest version of the downloadable spreadsheet here