In the world of super foods there is an ever growing list of new ingredients from camu camu, goldenberries, hemp seeds and maca to maqui berries, monk fruit and tree water. While these signal new, exciting and enticing ways to innovate in health and wellness, have you ever wondered if you can actually add these exciting new foods to your products.
Can you add it?
The Food Standards Code (FSC) outlines what can and can’t be added to foods sold in Australia. If you’re looking to use the newest superfood or ingredient two definitions to be aware of:
These are substances not normally consumed as a food in itself and not normally used as an ingredient of food, but which, after extraction and/or refinement, or synthesis, are intentionally added to a food to achieve a nutritional purpose. Nutritive substances include vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
These are foods or substances derived from a food that have not been traditionally consumed as a food in Australia and New Zealand and require a public health and safety assessment. Assessment considerations include, potential for adverse effects, the source from which the food is derived and the patterns and levels of consumption of the food. Novel foods can include, plant or herb extracts, single chemicals, microorganisms or foods from new sources or processes. An example of an approved novel food are phytosterols, the ingredients added to foods like margarine and milk to help with cholesterol reabsorption. Not all non-traditional foods are novel foods so it pays to seek advice on specific ingredients on a case by case basis.
Nutritive substances and novel foods can only be added to foods and beverages if they are expressly permitted in the FSC.
The usual suspects
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals can be added in certain forms to certain foods at certain levels. To understand the forms, the foods, how much you can add and what you can say, a good place to start is standard 1.3.2 of the Food Standards Code.
Some amino acids can be added to specific types of foods namely, formulated supplementary sports foods. Formulated supplementary foods have specific compositional (e.g. nutrient requirements) and labelling requirements (e.g. warning statements) as well as additional considerations for making nutrition claims.
Non-culinary herbs are, as the name suggests, herbs that are not traditionally used in cooking (i.e. adding flavour to foods). Non-culinary herbs are most often used for therapeutic or health reasons. Non culinary herbs may fall under different definitions such as non-traditional foods or novel foods. In some cases, they may be a plant that’s use in food is prohibited or restricted.
An example of a prohibited plant is cannabis. Cannabis species are a prohibited plant and therefore cannot are not permitted as food. Currently there is a proposal to allow seeds from a low THC cannabis variety as a food in Australia.
Exotic fruits or extracts
Like with non-culinary herbs new or exotic fruits or fruit extracts may be considered non-traditional or novel foods. Their permissibility can depend on if there is a history of safe use as a food in other countries, its source or how its processed, the intended final food and if there are any public health or safety concerns around its use. If you’re unsure, if your new food or ingredient could be a novel food it pays to seek advice on your specific food or ingredient.
What claims can you make?
Does the ingredient market itself? Or are you planning to make nutrition claims to highlight the benefits of the ingredient? If your case is that latter, it’s important to consider:
- Health claims are regulated under the Food Standards Code
- Most currently pre-approved health claims centre around the function of certain nutrients rather than specific foods)
- Most pre-approved health claims refer the support and maintenance of normal function (rather than improvement)
- New health claims require substantiation via a systematic literature review according to the process outlined in the FSC
- Claims cannot be therapeutic in nature
- The FSC does not allow claims comparing the vitamin and mineral contents of foods.
Consumer interest in the potential health benefits of foods is creating an exciting time for innovators in the food and beverage industry. Making sure you know the regulatory considerations will enable informed decisions, ensuring you can develop a product that you can sell and market without any surprises.