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Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2006;15(4):451-8.

Precision in nutritional information declarations on food labels in Australia.

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NSW Food Authority, 6 Avenue of the Americas, Newington, NSW, Australia.


Nutrition labels guide consumers in making their food choice. New requirements for mandatory nutrition labelling have been in force in Australia since late 2002. The present study, analysing 350 samples comprising 70 different products for nutritional compounds declared on the label, is the first larger attempt to quantify the precision in nutrition labelling of food products on the Australian market. A significant discrepancy between actual and declared values was detected with an average variation in precision of -13% to +61% for individual nutritional components. There is no tolerance limit established in the Australian food legislation but a +/- 20% discrepancy is allowed in some countries and others have separate upper and lower limits and allow a maximum discrepancy of -;20% for beneficial nutritional compounds and +20% for unfavourable compounds. Only 16% of the 70 products in the study would fully comply should a leeway of +/-20% be introduced for any nutritional compound on the label. With separate upper and lower limits, 51% of products would fully comply. Compliance improved to 27% and 70% of products, respectively, when excluding variations in minor amounts irrelevant to consumers (counting all variations of less than 1g/100g, or 10kJ/100g for energy and 10mg/100g for sodium, potassium, calcium and cholesterol, as compliant). It is proposed that adoption of an upper and lower tolerance limit, excluding minor amounts, be considered as a way of better assisting the consumer in making relevant comparisons of product nutritional value and that any nutritional component should comply with the limit for the product to comply. Applying such a limit, 30% of products in the survey would not be compliant.

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