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How should one label a non-dairy product?
May 2011

A number of products labelled as ‘non-diary creamers’ have recently been analysed in the FACTS laboratory and have tested positive for milk protein.

The concern relating to the labelling of these products is as follows:
1. The milk allergen was not declared on any of the products.
2. The nature of the name may lead consumers to believe that the product is free from any form of milk ingredient.
3. Not only does this type of labelling pose a risk to milk-allergic individuals, but it is also in contravention with the following regulations:

• Dept of Agriculture regulation R2581 (see below) does not allow for the wording ‘non-dairy creamer’; rather the wording ‘coffee-creamer’ or any other acceptable wording as per the table below.

• Based on the Dept of Health regulation R146 (see below), the product labelling will have to indicate the origin of the milk derivative, for example ‘caseinate (cow’s milk)’ in or close to the ingredient list (see details below).

FACTS encourages marketers of imitation dairy products to be extra cautious in identifying common allergens in their products and to guard against the use of labelling that could be misleading to consumers, particularly in the light of the impending labelling legislation and the recently promulgated Consumer Protection Act. In addition, this is also important to consider these regulations when creating company specification sheets.

REGULATIONS RELEVANT TO "NON-DAIRY" LABELLING

Department of Agriculture:
The Agricultural Product Standards Act (ACT No. 119 of 1990), Regulations relating to Dairy products and Imitation Dairy products (R2581/1987) allow for the following:
An "imitation dairy product" means any product other than a dairy product or a fat spread, that is of animal or plant origin and in general appearance, presentation and intended use corresponds to a dairy product. Table 7 of the regulations indicates the classes and standards for imitation dairy products:

Type of imitation dairy product Class designation Minimum total fat content (%) (m/m) Minimum milk protein content calculated on a fat-free basis (%) (m/m) Additional requirements
1 .Creamer Coffee creamer
Tea creamer
Not specified Not specified Not specified
2. Imitation milk product Blend Not specified 20.0 At least 50 % of the dry matter content shall consist of milk solids:  Provided that at least 50 % of such milk solids shall consist of fat-free milk powder
3. Imitation-cream Dessert topping 20.0 Not specified Not specified

The regulations also state "No word or expression which so nearly resembles the class designation of a dairy product that it could be misleading with regard to the composition of an imitation dairy product shall be marked on the container of such imitation dairy product."
Therefore, the regulations allow for milk protein to be present in imitation dairy products, but they have to be named in a specific way; "non-dairy" is not one of the options.

Department of Health:
The Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act 54 of 1972), Regulations relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs (R146/2010) includes cow’s milk as part of a group of eight ‘common allergens’ in South Africa. These regulations specify that:
"Where a product or its packaging material contains a common allergen, its presence shall be indicated... in parenthesis after the name of such an ingredient in the ingredient list... and/or in close proximity to the ingredient list or in a block with the words "Contains: (allergens(s))"."

Therefore, if any product contains cow's milk, it will be necessary to declare the presence of this common allergen in or close to the ingredient list irrespective of any Dept of Agriculture regulation".

In addition, R146/2010 states that "No claim shall be made that a foodstuff is free from any common allergen or similar wording, unless the foodstuff has been tested to confirm the absence of the particular allergen...".