Misleading Labels: Understanding and Avoiding Pitfalls in Australian Food Labelling

Navigating Misleading Labels: A Guide to Australian Food Labelling Laws

We live in a world where consumers are starting to recognise the ins and outs of nutrition and dietary regulations. People are reading the labels. People want to eat healthily. In response, some food manufacturers whisper promises of nutrition, quality, and value to boost their sales.

But blurring the lines between the truth and complete lies is not the answer. It misleads consumers. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that mislabelling contributed to Australia’s $3 billion food fraud in 2022. It is a growing concern in the industry that spoils manufacturers’ reputations and potentially endangers their consumers.

Yes, navigating food labelling regulations is a daunting task. So read more to learn the intricacies of Australian food labelling laws and explore how Food Labelling Experts can help you avoid falling in the mislabeling trap.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” — Maya Angelou, American Poet, and Civil Rights Activist

Key Causes of Food Mislabelling

Recipe and Formulation Changes

Any alteration to the original recipe or formulation makes existing labels obsolete. Even minor changes affect critical label information like serving sizes, ingredient lists, and nutritional information.

Ingredient Substitution

Replacing or substituting ingredients, whether for cost or availability, potentially impacts the product’s nutritional value, quality and ingredient lists, necessitating label updates.

Inadequate Cleaning and Hygiene in Production

Poor cleaning practices in production facilities can lead to allergen contamination, emphasising the need for accurate allergen declarations on labels.

Regulatory Knowledge Deficits

Many small businesses lack complete understanding of food labelling regulations, risking non-compliance and inaccurate labels.

Intentional Mislabelling

Deliberately mislabelling products, such as adulterating olive oil or honey, is unethical and can have serious legal and consumer safety implications.  Also other descriptions about food such as natural, organic and now even claims about sustainability and other green claims (you may have heard of ‘greenwashing’ labels) such as the carbon footprint of your food product, need to be assessed as accurate and able to stand up to scrutiny.  You need to have the evidence to back these claims.  Substantiation of the claims is key.

The Legal Complexity of Compliance

Australian food labelling laws are comprehensive and multifaceted. To put it simply, it is complex and it should be since food labels let consumers know what they are consuming. 

For example, MDW Law explains that all representations made both on and off-pack must comply with the Australian Consumer Law. Primarily, this means that representations and claims must not be false, misleading, or deceptive and this applies to what is expressly stated (whether in words or images), as well as what is omitted. Information on and about food (so in social media and also on websites) must be truthful. It can range from incorrect allergen declarations to ambiguous nutrient content claims to misleading health claims and green claims. The ACCC particularly looks at issues of false and misleading information.  They wield a big stick and can impose fines and other sanctions for serious breaches of Australian Consumer Law. To understand all the intricacies of the mandate, you need a Food Labelling Expert

With Food Labelling Essentials, small businesses are empowered with the knowledge and resources to comply with these regulations. You are not just ensuring adherence to the law but also fostering a culture of transparency and consumer trust.

The Perils of Inaccurate Labelling

Of course, if you don’t comply, you also carry the risks associated with your inaccuracies. These can potentially lead to public health risks, costly recalls, and damage to brand reputation. All of these entail costs and compete for a company’s valuable resources. This is why small food manufacturers must be especially vigilant to avoid any significant financial setbacks.  

Now, do you recall that manufacturers were given a 3-year transition to move over to the new allergen labelling requirements? Well, it has been three years! After 25th February 2024, all products manufactured after this date have to comply with the new labelling requirements. The time for mandatory change over is fast approaching, so take a Food Labelling Essentials course to take the stress away!

All problems become smaller when you confront them instead of dodging them.” – William F. Halsey, an American Navy Admiral During World War II

For small food manufacturers looking to navigate the new Australian food allergen labelling laws, get access to Food Labelling Experts’ resources and expert guidance, where food labelling is made simple for you!

FAQs

What are the most common types of misleading labels in Australia?

  • The most common misleading labels include exaggerated health claims, unclear allergen information, and inaccurate nutrient content descriptions.  The use of terms such as natural, organic and green claims can need to be accurate as well. These can mislead consumers and violate food labelling regulations.

How can small food manufacturers ensure their labels comply with Australian standards?

  • Small manufacturers should familiarise themselves with the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code, take expert-led courses, and consult with food labelling professionals to ensure compliance and accuracy.  Manufacturers should also back up their claims with evidence i.e. you must substantiate any claim you make  This may include sourcing raw material information from suppliers.  If they cannot guarantee certain claims such as natural for their raw materials, then you should not make those claims about your product.  There are certain claims that are only permitted to be used when particular conditions are met, such as with nutrient content claims and health claims.  If you change any ingredient in the food product, then you must recheck that the claims are still relevant.  Keep records of the information relating to all claims.

What is Plain English Allergen Labelling?

  • Plain English Allergen Labelling is an approach that uses clear and straightforward language to list allergens on food labels, making it easier for consumers to identify potential allergens.

What should be included in a food label in Australia?

  • A typical Australian food label should normally include the manufacturer’s name and address, product description (name of food), list of ingredients, allergen information, nutritional information, best before or use by dates, and country of origin, net content among other information depending on the type of product and packaging.

Why is accurate food labelling important for small businesses?

  • Accurate food labelling helps small businesses avoid legal issues, builds consumer trust, and ensures public health and safety by providing essential product information.

What is Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criteria (NPSC)?

  • NPSC is a tool used in Australia to determine the healthiness of a food product based on its nutrient content. It’s crucial for making legitimate nutrient content and health claims on labels.

How can a business learn about Beverage Container Deposit Schemes Labelling?

What are the penalties for misleading food labelling in Australia?

  • Penalties for misleading food labelling in Australia can include hefty fines, product recalls, and damage to brand reputation. Legal consequences are also possible under consumer protection laws.

 

Start your journey towards becoming a trusted name in the food industry. Get access to our courses and get the information you need with Food Labelling Experts!

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