2012 South African Labelling Legislation & Health Claims

Blog | April 18, 2012 | By

The new Labelling Regulations under the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act came into effect on 1 March 2012.  The information below was written by Deborah van der Merwe from FACTS (Food & Allergy Consulting & Testing Services) and summarised by Kim Hofmann for the Association for Dietetics South Africa (ADSA) Western Cape Autumn 2012 Branch Newsletter.  I have re-posting this information below which beautifully summarises what is and isn’t allowed on food labels and hopefully gives you a good idea of what to expect to see and what to look out for.

These regulations were published in the Government gazette on 1 March 2010 as Notice No. R146.  Visit the Department of Health, Food Control website to download R146 and other South African regulations relating to labelling and advertising of foodstuffs.

What is the aim of the regulation?

  • To align the regulations in SA with new scientific evidence, current trends and international guidelines
  • To close any loopholes
  • To enable the customer to make a more informed choice

Pictorial Presentations

Any pictures on the packaging must be a clear representation of what is in the product. For example, cereals may not be shown with milk and fruit, crackers may not be shown with toppings.  The pictorial representation may not be presented in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding the contents of the container

Prohibited Statements and Misleading Descriptions

  • Health practitioners or organisations (unless approved by the Director-General) or individuals may not endorse a food.
  • Symbols implying ‘healthy’.
  • ‘Nutrition’ or ‘complete nutrition’ or ‘nutritious’.
  • “Cure’ or medical claim, except if a claim is made that a food fulfils the particular nutrition requirement of:

– A person whose digestive process or metabolism is disturbed.
– A person with special physiological conditions that will obtain benefit from controlled consumption of certain substances e.g. pro-active margarine.

  • Endorsements: As an interim measure, approval has been granted for some bodies and will only be valid until phase 2 of the new Regulations is finally published. Once phase 2 has been finalised and legally in place, endorsements may only be permitted for foodstuffs that are, according to the nutrient profiling model criteria, eligible to make a nutrient or health claim. Only bodies approved by the Director-General and which can provide proof of the fact that they are involved in generic health promotion which is supported by evidence-based nutrition, and that the directions of the organisation, association or foundation do not contradict the requirements of these regulations in terms of nutrition claims and the criteria thereof, will be allowed.  The following endorsement bodies have received DG’s approval to date: CANSA, Heart Foundation, GIFSA, Diabetes association, Weighless. Logos may only be used on foodstuffs of which the labels are fully compliant to the new Food Labelling Regulations, R 146/2010, the new Trans fat Regulations, R127 of 17 February 2011 and other Regulations published under the Act.


  • Ingredients are listed in decending order of mass.
  • Where the labelling places special emphasis on the presence of one or more valuable or characterising ingredients, the ingoing percentage ingredients at the time of manufacture should be indicated [Quantitative Ingredient Decleration (QUID)].

Fats and Oils

  • The class name must be included in the ingredient list. For example vegetable, animal or fish oil.
  • Labels must indicate all the ingoing types of vegetable fats and oils.
  • The particular part of the plant from which the fat or oil is derived – for example vegetable oil (palm fruit).
  • Whether the oil is hydrogenated.

Food Additives

  • Food additives listed in Annexure 1 of the regulations may be indicated by their category names – for example acid, emulsifier etc.
  • Tartrazine must be stated.
  • The preservative plus it’s common name must be indicated.
  • If more than 10 mg/kg sodium dioxide is used it must be specified on the label.
  • Antioxidants must be labelled as their common chemical names.
  • MSG shall be indicated as MSG or monosodium glutamate followed by the word “flavour enhancer”.
  • Where a foodstuff contains a flavouring of an ingredient, but not the real ingredient itself, the words “flavouring” or “flavoured” shall accompany the name or the descriptor of the product to clearly indicate that only a flavouring was used and not the real ingredient itself.


  • All allergens must be declared.
  • The presence of the allergen must be indicated either:

– In the ingredient list – for example ‘lecithin (soya)’
– Under the ingredient list – as in ‘contains’

  • Significant cereals containing gluten must be listed – for example ‘wheat flour (gluten)’.
  • Appropriate advisory labelling may be used (for example ‘may contain’) under certain conditions.

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional information is voluntary if no claim is made.
  • If the food is a single ingredient agricultural commodity (for example olive oil) the nutritional information can come from the MRC table.
  • Whether given voluntary or required, the standard prescribed format as given in the regulations apply.
  • If a claim is made.
  • Nutritional information is compulsory.
  • The information must be typical values as determined by a reputable laboratory.
  • % NRV replaces the % RDA (voluntary).
  • Values for serving size must be included (an appropriate serving size – no supersizing).


The only wording allowed for claims:

  • Low in
  • Free or virtually free of
  • Source of
  • High in
  • Very high in

Allowed for the following nutrients under specific conditions:

Specific conditions are set out for:

  • Energy, carbohydrate, fibre, protein, PUFA, MUFA, omega 3, vitamins, carotenoids
Source of ≥ % 80kJ/100ml
High in ≥ % 950kJ/100
≥ % 250kJ/100ml

Total Fat
Low fat < 3g/100g (solids)
< 1.5g/100ml (liquids)
Fat free < 0.5g/100 g or ml
  • In the nutrition table they must declare:
  • Total fat
  • Saturated fat
  • PUFA (only mandatory in certain conditions)
  • MUFA (only mandatory in certain conditions)
  • Cholesterol (only mandatory in certain conditions)
Omega 3 Fats  
Source of > 75mg/single serving
High in > 150mg/single serving
Very high in > 300mg/single serving
Declare the breakdown of ALA, EPA and DHA in the nutri table

Minerals and Vitamins

0-5% No claim Not to be listed in nutri table
5-15% No claim Can list in nutri table
15-30% Source of Can list
30-60% High in Can list
>60% Very high Can list


  • Source of 2.4g/100g (Englyst method) 3g/100g (AOAC method)
  • High in 4.8g/100g (Englyst method) 6g/100g (AOAC method)
  • No claims may be made for novel fibres
Source of > 5g/100g
> 2.5g/100ml AND 2.5g/418kJ
High in > 10g/100g
> 5g/100ml AND 5g/418kJ
Specific amino acids must be analysed, and 100 % of the reference amino acids must be present. The source of the protein must be indicated in the ingredient statement.

Low in < 120mg/100g
Very low in < 40mg/100g
Free of < 5mg/100g

Negative Claims

  • When products are free from specific characteristics they can have a generic claims (for example a ‘naturally caffeine free food’).
  • When products do NOT contain permitted additives they can be labelled as additive free.
  • When products does not contain additives that are NOT permitted the claim may state ‘a preservative free food as is the case with all’.
  • If a permitted additive naturally occurs in a product the claim may be ‘no added preservative’.

Trans Fats

  • The new legislation kicked in on the 17th of August 2011.
  • All foods are prohibited of having a trans-fat content that exceeds 2g/100g.
  • Trans-fat free <1g/100g of the total fat or oil in the final product (NOT of the total product).

I hope you find this helpful!

Cheryl x


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