The Government announced new food labelling regulations today, which aim to give shoppers more certainty about how healthy their choices are.
Minister for Food Safety Nikki Kaye today signed a standard that would give legal effect to food regulation, covering more than 200 pre-approved food health claims.
"We are putting in a regulation which will mean we can have greater confidence in terms of what is on the labelling in our food," Kaye told TV ONE's Q+A programme.
The labelling means food businesses will need to ensure they can back up health claims with scientific evidence.
"The standard applies in New Zealand and Australia, and covers claims on food labels ranging from 'low in fat' to more specific claims such as 'diets high in calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in people 65 years and over'."
Former MP Sue Kedgely has been calling for a label overhaul for years and welcomed today's announcement.
But more could be done, she said.
"It's not going to enable a consumer to see at a glance whether food is healthy or not. What consumers want is a simple system that enables them to see is this food healthy or unhealthy?"
The government has ruled out a system like that but is confident these new labels will provide healthier food choices when they come into effect.
Food companies have three years to change their labels if they are found to have made false claims.
Kaye said the time frame for compliance was so companies could make the changes without having to hike food prices.
"The balance here is to provide simpler labelling and more informed choice, but also not add a whole lot of cost that will hurt low-income families."
University of Auckland professor Dr Raymond Miller said while the new regulation was a step in the right direction, the Government approach was too cautious.
"We need to know about added sugar, salt and fat.
Miller said there needed to be a labelling system that would inform consumers in a simple way.
"The food industry is not happy with this because it tends to shame those people who are actually making bad food."
The Government was also working on a star-rating system to help consumers identify good foods from bad, Kaye said.
The standard will take effect in New Zealand from May 9.