New food labeling rules take effect in South Africa

March 30, 2012

South Africa has implemented new labeling regulations that apply to food manufacturers both nationally and internationally, effective March 1, 2012. Recognizing that its existing food labeling regulations were outdated, the South African Dept. of Health (DoH) replaced regulation R2034 (1993) with new regulation R146. This followed an extensive process of debate, compilation, and amendment in 2010 and the new regulations were originally intended to be effective from March 2011, but postponed until March 2012 to allow the industry enough time to make the changes.

Mandatory information now required on food labels include the name and address of the manufacturer, importer or distributor, instructions for use, net content, country of origin, batch identification, use by date, nutrient analysis per 100 g (or per 100 mL of liquids), a list of ingredients, and a list of any common allergens.

With regulation R146, the label must contain the contents of foodstuffs (e.g., colorants, preservative, herbs and spices, etc.) Ingredients must be listed in order of descending mass (not volume). The ingredient weighing the most will be listed first and the ingredient weighing the least will be listed last. Common allergens include gluten, milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish or crustaceans, and major cereals (wheat, rye, barley, and oats).

Various misleading descriptions are prohibited on packaging and labels. These include words or images, marks, logo, or descriptions that create the impression foods are endorsed by health practitioners, organizations, institutes, or foundations. Specific words and phrases forbidden for nutrient claims are "rich in," "excellent source," "good source," "enriched with X," "with added X," "X free," "nutritious," "healthy," "wholesome," "complete nutrition," or "balanced nutrition" or other words or symbols that imply health giving properties, the word "cure" or any other medicinal claim. Statements to the effect of being fresh, natural, pure, traditional, original, authentic, real, genuine, homemade, farm house, handmade, selected, premium, finest, quality, best, or any other words or pictures which convey similar concepts are also prohibited unless the products are compliant with United Kingdom Food Standards Agency (FSA) criteria.

Press release