What's on a Food Label?Allergen Labelling and Advisory/Warning Statements
The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) is responsible for the implementation of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Food Standards Code) which took full effect on 20 December 2002. Food sold in New Zealand must be labelled in accordance with the Food Standards Code. The NZFSA has designed a series of fact sheets as basic guides to understanding New Zealand's food labelling and compositional requirements for consumers and industry. The full legal requirements, including exemptions to the general rules and explanations, are set out in the Food Standards Code. For information and copies of New Zealand's food legislation, including a link to the Food Standards Code, visit our website at www.nzfsa.govt.nz.
A food allergy is an abnormal response of the body's immune system to a food/food component. Food allergy symptoms range from a mild response (for example a skin rash) to a life threatening reaction. The foods/food components that have the potential to cause allergic reactions are usually proteins and are known as food allergens. People with food allergies must avoid consuming those foods known to contain the food allergen of concern, to prevent an allergic reaction.
A food intolerance/sensitivity is an unfavourable reaction to a food/food component that involves the body's digestive and metabolic systems, rather than the immune system. Food intolerance symptoms range from mild to very distressing and serious symptoms, such as severe bloating and diarrhoea. People with a food intolerance should avoid or limit consumption of those foods known to trigger an unfavourable reaction.
Common food allergens and/or substances capable of causing an intolerance
must be declared on food labels. These are:
- Cereals containing gluten and their products (wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt and their hybridised strains)
- Crustacea (e.g. crayfish, crabs, prawns) and their products
- Egg and egg products
- Fish and fish products
- Milk and milk products
- Nuts and sesame seeds and their products
- Peanuts and soybeans, and their products
- Added sulphites in concentrations of 10mg/kg or more
Food products containing these substances must be declared
when present as:
- An ingredient
- An ingredient of a compound ingredient
- A food additive or component of a food additive
- A processing aid or component of a processing aid
- These allergens can be declared in the ingredient list.
Advisory statements are required on some foods where an ingredient is known
to have an unfavourable reaction.
- For example: where kola beverages contain added caffeine, a statement to the effect that the product contains caffeine is required.
For some foods/food components that have the potential to cause severe
adverse reactions or adverse health effect, a warning statement about their
presence and effect is required. Warning statements are required where the
reaction is not widely known by consumers.
- For example: products that contain royal jelly must include a warning statement on the food label. In New Zealand a prescribed warning statement is - ’WARNING - THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS ROYAL JELLY AND IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR ASTHMA AND ALLERGY SUFFERERS AS IT CAN CAUSE SEVERE ALLERGIC REACTIONS'.
- Warning statements must be written in 3mm type or for packages with a surface area less than 100cm² no less than 1.5mm.
- Food allergen/food intolerance declarations and advisory/warning declarations and statements must be declared on the label where a label is required.
Where a label is not required the information must be provided:
- On the packaging; or
- On a display alongside the food; or
- To the purchaser upon request.
The Public Health Unit at your local District Health Board
New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA)
Hotline: 0800 NZFSA1 (0800 693 721)
PO Box 2835
Date of publication: 23 January 2004
NZFSA Fact Sheets on the Food Standards Code at the time of printing include:
- What's on a Food label? General Food Labelling Requirements under the Food Standards Code
- What's on a Food label? Date Marking and Storage Instructions
- What's on a Food label? Alcoholic Beverages and Food
PURPOSE of the INFORMATION, and DISCLAIMER
The information contained in this 'fact sheet' is provided for the purpose of giving a general understanding of the New Zealand food labelling compositional requirements to both consumers and industry personnel. It is not a professional commentary on the law nor is it provided as a basis of any decision making to be undertaken by the reader. It is general guidance only.
Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained is accurate, however general information by its very nature cannot cover every specific to the degree of accuracy expected in the provision in professional advice. In addition, the Code will be forever changing and it is not intended to amend this general guidance every time the Code is amended. Amendments to the guidance contained in this document will be restricted to major developments only. Reliance should be placed on the wording of the legislation itself. This is available at the NZFSA website at www.nzfsa.govt.nz or from any government bookshop.
The Crown, its employees and agents do not accept any responsibility or liability, whatsoever, for any error, omission, interpretation or opinion which may be present, however it occurred, nor for the consequences of any decision based on the information in this publication. The Crown, its employees and agents expressly disclaim all liability to any person in respect of anything, and the consequences of anything, done or omitted to be done in reliance, whether wholly or partly, upon the whole or any part of the contents of this publication.
Updated 23 January 2004 2004/3