Food labelling

Poster Food labelFood labels provide a wide range of information to help consumers make food choices.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand sets food labelling requirements in the Food Standards Code (external site).  These Labelling Standards are enforced by local government Environmental Health Officers. 

The Food Standards Code includes:

  • Chapter 1 of the Food Standards Code (external site) which sets out labelling and other information requirements that are relevant to all foods, and sets out which requirements apply in different situations (for example food for retail sale, food for catering purposes, or an intra-company transfer).
  • Chapter 2 of the Food Standards Code (external site) includes specific labelling and information requirements that apply to certain food products only.

Food labelling requirements

The following information outlines general food labelling requirements contained in the Food Standards Code.

Unless an exemption applies, the following information must be included on labels for food packages for retail sale or for catering purposes.

Refer to food labelling (external site) on the FSANZ website for detailed information on a range of labelling requirements.

The Food Labels - What do they mean poster (external site) provides an overview on how to read a food label.

Name or description of the food

Food package labels must include a name or a description of the food. This name or description should be clear enough so you can tell it apart from other foods. 

If there is a prescribed name for the food in the Food Standards Code this must be included on the label. If there is no prescribed name for a food, the label must include a name or description that clearly states the true nature of the food.

In accordance with food laws, labels must tell the truth and manufacturers must not represent foods in a false, misleading or deceptive way.

Name and business address for an Australia or New Zealand supplier

The supplier’s name and their Australian or New Zealand business address is required on food package labels. 

The term 'supplier' includes the packer, manufacturer, vendor (the business selling the food) or importer (the business bringing the food into Australia). 

The business address must be a physical address and not a post office box.

Mandatory warning, advisory statements and declarations (allergens)

Advisory statements

Advisory statements must be provided for certain foods or ingredients which may cause health risks for some consumers.

Prescribed warning and advisory statements are specified in Standard 1.2.3 – Mandatory Warning and Advisory Statements and Declarations (external site) and elsewhere in the Code.

Foods or ingredients that fall into this category include:
  • aspartame – labels on food containing the intense sweetener aspartame must indicate the food contains phenylalanine (which can affect people with the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria)
  • guarana or guarana extracts – labels on food containing guarana or extracts of guarana (which is a natural source of caffeine) must indicate that the food contains caffeine
  • plant sterols – labels on foods containing added plant sterols (which may reduce cholesterol absorption) must include statements indicating that:
    • when consuming the product, it should be consumed as part of a healthy diet
    • the product may not be suitable for children under the age of five years and pregnant or lactating women, and
    • plant sterols do not provide additional benefits when consumed in excess of three grams per day
  • caffeine – labels on kola beverages containing added caffeine must indicate that they contain caffeine

Warning statements

A food must have a warning statement when people may be unaware of a severe health risk posed by a food or an ingredient. For example, food containing the bee product royal jelly is required to have a warning statement, which states that: This product contains royal jelly which has been reported to cause severe allergic reactions and, in rare cases, fatalities, especially in asthma and allergy sufferers.

Refer to the FSANZ website for more on warning and advisory declarations (external site).

Allergic reactions – mandatory warnings, advisory statements and declarations

Some food for sale can cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. It is for this reason that certain food must have mandatory warnings, advisory statements and/or declarations when:

  • given to a buyer on request
  • displayed next to the food
  • included on the packaging.

Declarations

If a food product contains any of the following substances then a declaration must be made:

  • cereals containing gluten and their products, namely, wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt and their hybridised strains
  • fish and fish products
  • crustacea (shellfish, for example prawns) and associated products
  • egg and egg products
  • milk and milk products
  • peanuts and soybeans and their products
  • tree nuts and sesame seeds and their products other than coconut
  • added sulphites in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more.

Refer to the Food Allergens Declarations for a suite of resources that provide information on allergen declaration requirements for food businesses. This information supports the objective of protecting public health of food allergic individualsSensitised individuals rely on allergen declaration information provided to make decisions on what food is safe for them to purchase and eat. 

Refer to food allergies (external site) and the Food Allergen Portal (external site) on the FSANZ website for more information.

Allergen labelling saves lives

Ingredient listing and percentage labelling

Ingredients list

Unless specifically exempted, food package labels must list all:

  • ingredients (this means any substance, including a food additive, used in the preparation, manufacture or handling of a food)
  • compound ingredients (an ingredient made up of 2 or more ingredients, such as spaghetti which is made up of flour, egg and water).

Ingredients and compound ingredients must be listed in descending order of their ingoing weight at the time the food is manufactured. There are limited exceptions to this.

The names of ingredients should be sufficiently detailed to describe the ingredient ensure they are not false, misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive. 

For guidance on the labelling of ingredients refer to FSANZ’s Ingredient Labelling of Foods User Guide (external site).

Percentage labelling

Certain packaged foods labels must show the percentages of the ‘characterising’ ingredients in the food product, if the key ingredient is mentioned in the food description.

For example, if yoghurt is called ‘strawberry yoghurt’ then the amount of strawberries within the yoghurt must be listed as a percentage in the ingredient list. 

Refer to FSANZ for information on Standard 1.2.10 – Characterising Ingredients and Components of Food.

Refer to ingredient list and percentage labelling of foods (external site) for further guidance. 

Date marking - use by and best before dates

Packaged foods that have a shelf life of 2 years or less must be date marked with either a:

  • best before date – this means the food may still be safe to eat but may have lost some of its quality
  • use-by date – this means a food is not safe to eat after a certain date. Food labelled with a use-by date cannot be sold after that date.

Refer to use by and best before dates (external site) on the FSANZ website for more information. 

 
Lot identification

A lot identification is used to identify:

  • the batch from which the food was manufactured
  • where the food was packed and/or prepared.

This information is especially important if there is a food safety issue which leads to a food recall.

A date mark and the supplier’s address details are generally enough to meet this requirement.

Some food items are exempt from lot identification, including:

  • individual portions of ice cream/ice confection
  • food in small packages when the bulk packages or container in which the food is stored or displayed for sale includes lot identification.
Food additive labelling

Food additives in most packaged food must be listed in the statement of ingredients on the label.

Most food additives must be listed by their class name followed by the name of the food additive or the food additive number, for example, Colour (Caramel I) or Colour (150a). Enzymes and most flavourings (or flavour) do not need to be named or identified by a food additive number and can be labelled by their class name only.

The class name indicates what the food additive does (i.e. its purpose). Read the list of the most common class names of food additives(external site).

Refer to food additive labelling (external site) on the FSANZ website for more detail. 

Health claims (nutrition, health and related claims)

You can only base health claims on food-health relationships that have been substantiated according to Standard 1.2.7. All health claims must be supported by scientific evidence to the same degree of certainty, whether they are pre-approved by us or self-substantiated by food businesses.

Standard 1.2.7 – Nutrition, health and related claims in the Food Standards Code set out requirements for making nutrition content and health claims about food.

Refer to Getting Your Claims Right - A guide to complying with the Nutrition, Health and Related Claims Standard of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (external site)

Further information is available at nutrition, health and related claims (external site).

Directions for use or storage

Food labels must include directions for use and storage if the possible threat to your health and safety is greater than if you didn’t have this information. 

Following these directions keeps the food safe until its use-by date. Examples of such directions are ‘refrigerate after opening’ or ‘store away from sunlight’.

Nutrition information panel

The requirement for nutrition information is detailed in Standard 1.2.8 of the Food Standards Code (external site)

The nutrition information panel details the amount of nutrients in the food, including:

  • energy (kilojoules or calories)
  • protein
  • fat
  • saturated fat
  • carbohydrate
  • sugars
  • sodium (salt).

Information must be presented in a standard format which shows the average amount per serve and per 100 g (or 100 mL if liquid) of the food. 

Refer to nutrition information panels (external site) on the FSANZ website for more information.

You can create your own nutrition information panel using the Nutrition Information Calculator (external site).

Country of origin

Food package labels must specify the country in which the food was made or produced or specify the product is made from local or imported ingredients.

This provision does not apply to food produced in or imported into New Zealand.

Refer to country of origin (external site) on the FSANZ website for more information.

Legibility, truth in labelling, weights and measures requirements

Truth in labelling

Fair trading laws and food laws in Australia and New Zealand require that labels do not misinform consumers through false, misleading or deceptive representations. In Australia, this legislation includes the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) contained in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, and state and territory Fair Trading Acts and Food Acts. In New Zealand, this legislation includes the Food Act 2014 and Fair Trading Act 1986.

In Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) enforces the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. In New Zealand, the Commerce Commission is responsible for enforcing the Fair Trading Act 1986.

Name or description of the food

Foods must be labelled with an accurate name or description that indicates the true nature of the food, for example ’Strawberry Yoghurt’ should contain strawberries. If it were to contain strawberry flavouring rather than real strawberries, the label should indicate that it is strawberry flavoured yoghurt.

Weights and measures

Suppliers must label food products with accurate weights and measures information (the quantity of food contained in a package). Weights and measures declarations are regulated by the Australian National Measurement Institute and the Trading Standards New Zealand.  

Legibility requirements

The Food Standards Code requires that labels must be legible and prominent so they are distinct from the background, and in English. The size of the type in warning statements must be at least 3 mm high, except on small packages where the size of the type must be at least 1.5 mm high.

Refer to Truth in labelling, weights and measures and legibility (external site) on the FSANZ website for more information. 

Other labelling requirements

Refer to the Food Standards Code on the FSANZ website (external site) for information on the following additional labelling requirements:

  • health claims (Standard 1.1.3, clause 1)
  • labelling of certain milk products and royal jelly (Standard 1.2.3, clauses 3)
  • infant formula labelling (Standard 2.9.1)
  • nutrition claims (Standard 1.2.8)
  • labelling of vitamin and mineral content (Standard 1.3.2)
  • labelling of genetically modified food (Standard 1.5.2)
  • irradiated food (exposed to radiation) or food containing ingredients that have been irradiated (Standard 1.5.3)
  • novel foods (Standard 1.5.1).
Exemptions from labelling requirements

The following foods for retail sale or for catering purposes do not generally require a food label:

  • food not in a package
  • food in an inner package not designed for sale without an outer package, other than individual portion packs which contain certain substances which must be declared either verbally or in writing
  • food made and packaged from the premises from which it is sold
  • food packaged in the presence of the buyer
  • whole or cut fresh fruit and vegetables (except sprouting seeds or similar products) in packages through which you can see the nature or quality of the fruit or vegetables
  • food delivered packaged and ready to eat at the request of the buyer
  • food sold at a fundraising event.

Even when exempt from bearing a label, the Food Standards Code requires that certain information about a food be available to you, either verbally or in writing, at the point of sale.

Last reviewed: 01-07-2021
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate