It’s official: nuts are a heart healthy food. That was the message from Nuts For Life Chair Chris Joyce when he announced exciting news for the nut industry at the recent 2017 Australian Nut Conference in Melbourne.
Scientific research has proven over many years that nut consumption offers up a host of powerful health benefits. However as an Australian industry, it has been extremely difficult to communicate this information to consumers due to the regulations imposed by the Australian Food Standards Code.
A shifting regulatory landscape
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) took more than 10 years to amend the nutrition and health claim standard as part of the Australian Food Standards Code. Nuts For Life was an active participant in the process, providing FSANZ with a sizeable body of scientific evidence to substantiate claims linking nut consumption with positive health outcomes.
While a high level health claim linking nuts and heart disease could not be achieved, the nutrition and health claims standard allows for the self substantiation of general level health claims. Nuts For Life commissioned university researchers to undertake a systematic literature review assessing the effects of nuts on heart health and weight. A 566-page report was generated and as a result, under certain conditions, producers of nut products will now be able to communicate that nuts are heart-healthy on product packaging and in forms of advertising.
New scope for nut health claims
This is the first time producers of nut products in Australia and New Zealand have been eligible to make health claims about nuts directly to consumers, and it paves the way for front of pack statements linking nut consumption to heart health without weight gain. Examples include:
- ‘Nuts are a heart healthy food’
- ‘Enjoy a handful of heart healthy nuts’
- ‘Regular nut consumption contributes to heart health without causing weight gain’
- ‘Regular nut consumption such as (insert nut variety in product), as part of a healthy, varied diet, contributes to heart health without causing weight gain’
Nut producers need to note that although this development provides the ability to make more overt health claims than ever before, it is still highly regulated. Packers will need to sign a license agreement and be responsible for notifying FSANZ of the claim they wish to make and provide a product list. Front of pack claims will need to be referenced to mandatory back of pack information. Processes must be strictly adhered to, and not every nut product will be able to include a health claim.
New claims underpinned by scientific evidence
Nuts For Life commissioned the review and compilation of vast volumes of evidence to warrant the general level health claim that is now possible.
This included the assessment of 82 clinical trials and 15 population based studies in relation to nut consumption and heart health, and 68 clinical trials and 4 population based studies in relation to weight outcomes.
The result was a 566-page report of all the nut health evidence up to October 2014. A summary of this evidence is available here. Nuts for Life is committed to updating this research every three years or so.
Who can make the claim?
The general level health claim can be made by:
- Tree nuts: macadamias, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts
- Unsalted raw, roasted, whole, sliced and ground nuts
- Ground nuts, nut butters and pastes (heart health claim only, not weight claim)
Nut bars, oils and milks have not been covered by the scientific evidence and therefore cannot make health claims under this process.
How to access the claim
To make the general level health claim, you must have access to the full body of scientific evidence through a licensee agreement arrangement. This evidence is available to Nuts For Life contributors at no charge.
To find out if your product is eligible to make the claim, and the process for accessing the claim, please contact the Nutrition Program Manager at Nuts For Life on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +61 2 9460 0111.