By Rika Le Roux Kemp on 03 April 2017

At the beginning of 2010 whilst the rest of South Africa was busy with the soccer (or their lives) the Minister of Health signed Reg 146 (March 2010) and the principles of label design and advertising changed dramatically. In this article we are giving the gist of the regulations. To be able to comply in full one should still consult the regulation and guidelines which are available on the Department of Health’s website (


I see the main aim of the regulations is to create more effective communication channels from the manufacturer to the end consumer. This is applicable, amongst others, to the product characteristics, nutritional content when claims are made, the shelf life of the product, the treatment the product has undergone and the allergens which the product might contain. By complying with these regulations the Minister eliminated unwarranted claims without a scientific base and thus protects the consumer. The article is thus written to address some of the main concerns of the manufacturers which were expressed in discussions.


What do the manufacturers need to attend to first?

As from June 2010 we were not allowed to make claims in the way of “x% fat free”. This is also applicable to energy, fats, cholesterol, mono or – disaccharides, sodium and alcohol specifically.  The rest of the regulations came into effect March 2011. 


Which language is compulsory for use on the packaging?

The use of English is compulsory. If it is possible to make use of one other official language on the packaging, it should to be used as well.


What about point of sale advertising?

The label, thus the packaging information, has to be available at the point of sale. This then creates some challenges to “lose” sales e.g. the delicatessen counters.


Communicating name and nature to the consumer

“Name” is defined as a word or wording giving a true description of the nature of the food put up for sale in the specific packaging. The product name thus shall be precise in order to avoid misleading or confusing the consumer with regard to the true nature, physical condition, type of packing medium, style condition and type of treatment it has undergone. If the name of the product is not a proper description of the nature of the product put up for sale, the manufacturer shall describe the product (called a “descriptor”) which shall be printed in close proximity of the name of the product.


The manufacturer needs to print the name in a letter size ≥ 4mm on the main panel (thus the part of the label that bears the name of the product and the brand or trade name.). The descriptor shall then be a third of the biggest letter size of the name of the product; the letters shall be of the same font, colour, prominence and legibility as the name. The name in the case of a returnable soft drink bottles may, in addition appear on the cap in not less 1 mm in height for the lower case vowels.  If the pack size is smaller than 12 000 mm2, certain specifications are included in the regulations.


Contact details of the manufacturer

“Address” is defined as “a physical address in the Republic of South Africa and includes the street or road number or name and the name of the town, village or suburb and in the case of a farm, the name or number of the farm and the magisterial district in which it is situated”. It is required to provide the address of the manufacturer or importer or seller.


Country of Origin

The country of origin must be declared as well. It can be done in the following styles:

  1. Product of where ALL main ingredients, processing and labour originates from, if from one country;
  2. Produced in/Processed in/ Manufactured in/ Made in/ similar words to be used when food was processed in a second country which changes it nature (This is advised for the majority of foods packed in RSA);
  3. Packed in may be used in addition to the above.


May pictures be used?

Pictorial representations may not be false, misleading, and deceptive or create an erroneous impression regarding the contents of the container, its character, origin, composition, quality, nutritive value, nature or other properties in any respect. The wording “serving suggestion” was done away with because it was grossly misunderstood.  Ensure that the pictures or illustrations are not misleading and are a true reflection of the product that is put up for sale.


Can we “call in” the government when “needed”?

No. It is not allowed to refer to the Food Stuffs and Cosmetics Act, any food related regulations, provincial or local government the Department of Health or any official of any of these.


In which format do we declare the ingredients included in the product?

 The regulations covering the ingredient declaration can be summarised as follows:

  1. Ingredients (use the name of the ingredient which would have been use if it was sold independently) which were added at mixing bowl stage should be declared in uniform letter type, size, font, colour and prominence throughout expect where a capital letter is part of the ingredient name. The ingoing ingredients shall be listed in descending order of mass under the heading “Ingredients”. Expect for herbs and spice (not exceeding 2% in mass, singly or in combination), vitamins and minerals which can be listed in any order. When a compound ingredient is added into a food product, the ingredients included in the compound ingredient should be listed in brackets immediately after the name of the compound ingredient in the said list.
  2. Where mixed fruits/vegetables or nuts are added in no predominate order in term of mass, it can be listed in any order in the declaration.
  3. If any concentrated or reconstituted raw materials are including in a product, it shall be specifically declared “reconstituted xx”.
  4. Additives which are added to perform a function in the specific food stuff (refer to annexure 1 of the Regulations) can be named in terms of the function e.g. “emulsifier” or “flavouring”. The exceptions to this rule is monosodium glutamate which shall be listed as “ MSG (flavour enhancer)” or “mono sodium glutamate (flavour enhancer)” and tartrazine should be listed as such and not as a “colourant”.
  5. The declaration of preservative/s shall be listed with the word “Preservative” preceding the list of preservatives. It is recommended that the said list is put into brackets for clarity reasons.  In the case of shelf stable meat products “curing agent” should precede the list of nitrites and nitrates present in the final product.
  6. An antioxidant should be listed by its common chemical name or abbreviation e.g. Vit C to be listed as ascorbic acid.
  7. It is not compulsory to include added water when the water does not exceed 5% (excluding raw-processed meats) or when it is used to wet a dry ingredient as well as when it is part of a syrup or brine which is declared as such.
  8. Added fats and oils shall be listed and described by the class name and the plant part from which the fat/oil is derived e.g. vegetable oil (palm kernel, sunflower seed). The term hydrogenated shall be included when appropriate. One can not make claims in terms of “cold pressed”, “mechanically pressed” unless it is compliant to the methods listed in the Regulations.


When should QUID be used?

When labelling places emphases on one or more ingredients, the ingoing percentage in terms of mass of these ingredients should be declared. The percentage shall be printed in brackets in close proximity to the words, illustrations or graphics referring to the ingredient/s, in brackets after the ingredient listed in the declaration or directly after the name or descriptor. Guideline 3 (DOH website) gives more information on the precise use of QUID.


What about other pack sizes?

Where food is sold in bulk other than by retail, the bulk container need not to be labeled with the list of ingredients if the bulk containers are accompanied by trade documents with all the information required by the regulations. If bulk stock are sold through retail these regulations are applicable and should be adhered to unless the bulk pack contains small individual packs which adhere to the requirements of the legislation.


Shelf life and coding information

Date marking is compulsory for all packs and should be applied (and not removed or altered in any point in time) on the packaging which is retained by the consumer. This information has to be available for the end consumer.  The products exempted are listed in annexure 4.  A “Used By” or “Best Before” (“BB” is the only abbreviation permitted in the regulation) date shall be applied.


Used by”  as defined by the Regulations, is a date which signifies end of an estimated period under the stated storage condition where after the product will probably not have the quality attributes normally expected by the consumer; after this date the food should not be regarded as marketable. On the other hand “Best before” signifies the period (life of product) under any storage conditions. The product remains marketable after this period, it will retain any specific qualities of which claims were made and will beyond the date still be satisfactorily.


The date marking of local produced foods shall have the format of Day-Month-Year e.g. 15/03/10. If the date marking on imported foods have a different date format, the month shall be in letters (fully written out or abbreviated) e.g. Jan or January and the year shall be fully written out e.g. 2010.


All products shall bear a batch number which is compiled in such way that the product is easily identifiable and traceable. The “batch” means a definite quantity of a commodity produced essentially under the same conditions in a period not exceeding 24 hours.


What is defined as a claim?

Any written, pictorial, visual, descriptive or verbal statement, communication, representation or reference brought to the attention of the public in any manner including a trade name or brand name and referring to the characteristics of a product, in particular to it’s nature, identity, nutritional properties, composition, quality, durability, origin, or method of manufacture or production is seen as a claim by the regulator.


General notes on claims

In general some regulations on claims can be listed as follows:

  1. No nutritional claim is allowed when the additive is added for technological or sensory reasons e.g. when Vit C (ascorbic acid) is added as a preservative.
  2. Claims on “antioxidant” content should receive a pre-market approval by SAHPRA for efficacious daily and single serving levels.
  3. No claim may refer to a product that is not included in the packaging.
  4. Claims can be made for a food product (not in the packaging itself) which is adjunct to the food product packed provided it is clearly stated that the claim refers to the food product not included in the packaging and all nutritional information is provided for the food product which are then in the packaging.


When vegetarian claims are made:

  1. A prefix indicating the class of vegetarian is to be added i.e. “lacto” for milk/milk product/ products containing rennet; “ovo” for egg containing products and “honey” when honey is included in the recipe/product.
  2. “Strict vegetarian” or “vegan” when all ingredients derived from animals is excluded from production of the food product.


What about nutrient content claims?

The conditions for nutrient claims are given in a four pager table 1 in the Regulation and should at all times be referred to when any such claims are considered. Typical wording which are permitted are “low”, “ free or virtually free”, “source”, “high” and “very high” as stipulated in table 1.  Prohibited wording: “rich in”, “excellent source”, “good source”, “enriched”, “enriched with X”, “contains X” similar wordings. The near absence of a nutrient by wording using “trace” is prohibited. When more than 2 conditions for nutrient claim are required, the food product must meet all the criteria to qualify.


When a mineral is added to a food product, the elemental mineral from which the mineral was derived from should be listed in the ingredient declaration e.g. calcium carbonate and the elemental mineral shall be listed in the nutritional table e.g. calcium. Mineral claims can only be made when specific levels of the NRV (nutrient reference value) are present in the food product.


When any claims on fiber content are made, the method of analyses shall be referenced to underneath the nutritional table. No nutrient claim is permitted for novel fibers defined by the Regulation as “edible carbohydrates which have a physiological benefit to health demonstrated by scientific evidence presented by competent authorization bodies; approved and registered by SAHPRA”. Refer to the special conditions listed in the Regulation.


Protein claims shall be accompanied by the source of protein indicated in the ingredient list. Protein quality shall comply to contain at least 100% of each of the amino acids as per annexure 5 in the Regulation.


Considering fat/fatty acid/cholesterol claims one shall use the real analytical values and the following shall be incorporated:  Total fat, the proportion of saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats and mono-saturated fatty acids as well as the total cholesterol content. Refer to regulation for specific format in which these are to be declared in the nutritional value table. When claims on Omega 3 are made, the specific fatty acid have to be specified and the real analytical values to be included in the table.


Claims on fat in mince meat shall adhere to set specifications. Lean/trim/similar claims shall indicate that the mince meat contains ≤ 10 % fat where extra lean/extra trim/similar mince meat contains ≤ 5% fat.


Sugar claims are not permitted when the food products contain any sugar as per the definition given in the regulations.


What information must be provided when nutritional claims are made?

Full nutritional information shall be provided in the prescribed format and be expressed in mass. Serving sizes to be expressed in mass or volume what ever is appropriate. The serving size used shall be determined by the manufacturer and should be done in a responsible way which is scientific evidence-based. The manufacturer is advised to steer away from super sized serving.


The specifications laid down for this nutritional table is:

  1. The nutritional table shall always be in tabular prescribed form unless there is not enough space for such
  2. The appropriate measurement for each nutrient to be used – energy to be expressed as kilojoule (kJ).
  3. Each nutrient shall be declared by mass.
  4. If the food product is packed in a liquid e.g. brine it shall be indicated if the nutritional analyses supplied is applicable to drained or net mass; whether the information refers to ready to consume food or to the packed food.
  5. Where NRV’s are established e.g. protein, minerals it may be expressed as % per serving in an additional column to the right of the table.
  6. When any recipe changes or raw material changes are done, the analyses shall be repeated to determine the nutritional value of the final product.


When a manufacturer would like to declare the nutritional information in a voluntary table, the following resources can be used:

  1. For a single ingredient agricultural commodity values can be used which are obtained from MRC tables (or any other recognized composition table if MRC is not available), in house analytical data, calculation of data obtained from individual ingredients or actual laboratory analyses
  2. For food other than single commodities values can be obtained by in house analytical data, analyses by a reputable laboratory or calculations based on individual ingredients’ data.

Keep in min that the source of information shall be declared underneath the table. The compulsory format is to be used but the table may contain other nutritional info as per the manufacturer’s choice.


A compulsory nutritional table shall adhere to the following requirements:

  1. Appear on the packaging when one or more nutritional claims are made.
  2. Nutritional values shall be real as per analyses results of a reputable laboratory
  3. Either specified methods or if none is specified, SANAS accredited or ILAC methods to be used for such analyses
  4. Table shall contain the minimum information on nutritional as per the prescribed table with specific information on the nutrient/s included in the claim/s.
  5. The values shall be verified every 3 years and these reports shall be kept available for inspections.


Whether compulsory or voluntary the nutritional table shall always contain the following:

  1. The heading “Typical Nutritional Information”
  2. The mass or volume of a single portion of the product to be consumed
  3. The minimum mandatory information which shall be reflected per serving as well as 100 g (solids) or 100 ml (fluids).


Comparative claims can be done but should be adhere to certain specifications

Comparative claims can only be made when food products are not included in the set standards which exist under the Agricultural Products Standards Act and the NRCS compulsory act. The following shall be adhered to:

  1. It is only allowed to compare different versions of the same/similar foods
  2. Full description of the foods which are compared shall be given
  3. Exact amount of 2 foods should be given
  4. Pertinent nutrients should be mentioned in the claim
  5. Amount of difference to expressed as %; the difference should be at least 25%
  6. Identity of foods should appear in close proximity of the claims


Prohibited statements

What are we not allowed to “tell” our consumers?


Any words, pictorial representations, marks, logo’s or descriptions which create an impression is seen as means of communication to the consumer and must be taken into consideration when prohibited statements are identified.


One can not make use of endorsements on the packaging. “Endorse” is defined as to confirm or convey or declare an approval of a particular foodstuff in any manner but excludes certification. Endorsements are not allowed at all:

  1. By a health practitioner (as individual or through an organization),
  2. By organizations, associations, foundations and others (excluding religious certifying organizations and Fauna & Flora) unless approved by the Director-General of Health (scientific evidence and reports required).
  3. By an individual when the testimony implies a nutritional claim
  4. By an endorsement of a manufacturer or seller (in form of a logo, mark, symbol, written or verbal statement).


No reference to “health” or “healthy” or any implication that foods stuff itself or the substance of the food stuff has any “health giving” properties. This is applicable to the name of the product name or trade name, expect in the case of any fortification logo for food vehicles which states “fortified for a better health”. The words “wholesome”, “nutritious” or words with a similar meaning can be used on packaging material. No claims can be made indicating that the food stuff provides complete or balanced nutrition. The word “cure” or any medicinal claims (including prophylactic and therapeutic claims) are allowed (subject to the medicine and related substance act (Act 101/1965). But what about “scientifically proven”? The DoH states that the statement is not acceptable at present.


What about negative claims?

No claim is permitted when a food stuff claim to alone possesses (or is free) from a certain characteristic/property/substance when similar foods also possesses (or is free from) the same unless the characteristic/property/substance is commonly present in the referred to category of foods and the claim is worded in a generic way with reference to generic / category name thus not branded thus “X naturally contains name of characteristic/property/substance” (e.g. milk naturally contains calcium”) or “ X is naturally free from characteristic/property/substance (e.g. “rooibos tea is naturally caffeine free food”) .


Negative claims on additives are permitted when:

  1. A certain additive is permitted in a food category but the food product marketed does not contain that additive e.g. “X is name-of-additive free”.
  2. A claim for information purposes are made when a food additive is prohibited in a food category and is free in a certain food product. It should then be worded generically “A additive X  free name of category or class of food as it is the case with all name of category or class of food”.
  3. An additive which is permitted in a food category, is not added into a certain food product but is naturally present in that food category, a claim shall be worded “no added additive X”.


What about claims on mineral/packaged water?

Claims on package water in general are not permitted. No such claims as “mineral water naturally contains calcium and magnesium”, “spring water is an energy free food” or “spring water is a caffeine free food” shall be printed on packaging or used in advertisement material. No nutritional claims are allowed.


What is the new stance on allergens?

All common allergens present in a food product put up for sale should be labeled as such. The allergens which are not evident by the name of the product should be listed in brackets in the ingredient declaration e.g. stabilizer (egg), or in brackets in close proximity with the words as follows “Contains: the list of allergens ”. 


The common allergens listed in the legislation are egg, cow’s milk, crustaceans and mollusks, fish, peanuts and tree nuts, soybeans, significant cereals where gluten will be listed in brackets following the name of the ingredient included in the product (wheat, incl varieties e.g. kamut & spelt; rye, barley, oats and crossbreds of these listed) as well as ingredients derived from the above allergens. Goat’s milk shall also be listed in the same manner as common allergens.


The presence of uncommon allergens shall be disclosed upon request from consumers, inspector and/or Department of Health. Guideline 6 of the regulations is applicable here.


The regulation also calls for the implementation of allergen management inside the processing facility. It is thus not allowed anymore to declare “packed in a facility which also handles nuts” for example. Management systems to prevent cross contamination have to be implemented.  It is thus important to:

  1. Exercise due diligence to prevent cross contamination.
  2. Implement an allergen control policy in accordance with the guidelines.
  3. Implement good manufacturing practices and an effective allergen control policy not to circumvent them with precautionary labelling.


Food products can only be labeled at “gluten free” if:

  1. It does not contain significant cereal as per the definition in the regulation
  2. The final product contains ≤ 20 ppm determined according to the methods prescribed in the Regulations.

When a cereal suitable for gluten free by nature, is included into a food product, the product can not be labeled as “gluten free”. The words “this cereal product is by nature gluten free” can be used.


A food product can not be labeled as being hypoallergenic, non-allergenic, “free from allergen” or similar wording used unless the food product was modified to reduce endogenous allergens in such a way that it is not detectable through testing (these information to be available at the government’s inspector).


Statements which can be seen as misleading can not be made...

No statements can be printed on packaging which reads as follows:

  1. Healthy or healthier
  2. Additive free
  3. Veterinary medicine free
  4. A more humane treatment/rearing of animals e.g “karoo lamb”, “grass fed”, “grain fed”, “country reared”, “free range”, “pure”, “organic”, or similar wording.
  5. Statement will only be allowed if it is compliant with guideline 8: “fresh”, “natural”, “pure”, “traditional”, “original/authentic”, “real/genuine”, “home made” / “hand made”, “farmhouse”, “selected”, “premium”/”finest”/”best”, “quality”.
  6. Fish can only be labeled as “wild caught” and not as “wild”.
  7. Frozen foods thawed for subsequent sale have to be labeled as “previously frozen” in bold uppercase letters with size of ≥ 3 mm. It may not be labeled as “fresh”.


The hype about irradiation include in the regulations? 

When the food product was irradiated in any point in time, it must be communicated to the consumer whether by wording or international recognized symbol printed in close proximity to the name of the product.  When an ingredient was irradiated, it should be declared in the ingredient list as such.


When do we need to print storage instructions?

Storage instruction is only needed to be printed on the packaging when or if necessary. The prescribed wording of R2034 falls away. The storage instruction provided by the discretion of the manufacturer should be relevant to preserve and retain the quality attributes to the specific food packed. The letter size to be used for printing shall be ≥ 3 mm in bold upper case.


Is there any ore help whilst implementing the regulations?

Refer to the guidelines which are available on the Dept. of Health website for any further explanation of the regulations.


Courtesy: Rika Kemp