GST and weight loss foods

Terms we use

When we say invalid we mean enfeebled or disabled by illness.

What are weight-loss foods?

There are a variety of food products promoted and sold for use in weight-reducing diets. These include formula foods and very low-energy or very low-calorie diet foods (VLED / VLCD). Some of these foods may carry a recommendation that they be taken under the supervision of a health care professional.

Weight loss foods may include:

  • soup mixes
  • beverage preparations, for example, drink mixes and 'shake' powders
  • meal replacement bars
  • dessert mixes.

What is the GST treatment of weight-loss foods?

Weight-loss foods are treated the same as similar non-weight loss foods. There is no exemption from GST for any food or beverage on the grounds that it is for weight reduction. There is also no exemption from GST for any food on the grounds that it is recommended or sold by a doctor, hospital or a pharmacy outlet.

For example:

Weight loss food

Similar non-weight loss food

GST treatment

Meal replacement bar

Health food bar, muesli bar, protein bar, energy bar

Subject to GST

VLCD / VLED soup mix

Soup mix


Dessert mix

Dessert mix


Frozen prepared diet meal

Frozen prepared meal

Subject to GST

Schedule 1 of the GST Act lists food that is subject to GST (that is, taxable food). If a food is not listed in Schedule 1, and it is for human consumption, it will be GST-free. For example, powdered soup mixes and dessert mixes.

Schedule 2 of the GST Act lists GST-free beverages. Beverages, and ingredients for beverages, are only GST-free if listed in Schedule 2. This includes products such as:

  • milk
  • water
  • coffee powder
  • fruit juice that is at least 90% juice.

Weight-loss beverages and ingredients for weight-loss beverages are not listed in Schedule 2 and, therefore, are subject to GST.

Beverages and ingredients for beverages of a kind marketed principally for invalids are GST-free under the GST Act. This applies only to beverages and not to other foods.

How a product is promoted or advertised and to what extent it is marketed for invalids will be a determining factor in it being GST-free or taxable. Beverage preparations principally marketed for those who are merely overweight or moderately obese do not meet the requirements to be GST-free.

Find out more

GST food guide (NAT 3338)

End of find out more

Example 1

Leo sells 'Loseweight', which is marketed as a formulated low energy chocolate flavoured shake mix. The shake mix is added to water and stirred or blended before consumption.

The product is sold through pharmacy outlets and is sometimes recommended by doctors to persons needing to lose weight to reduce the risk of developing illness, or to help manage existing medical conditions. The pharmacies may provide information, advice or supervision to those purchasing the product.

'Loseweight' is marketed as a meal replacement suitable for overweight and obese persons wishing to reduce their Body Mass Index. It is not principally marketed as food for invalids.

The shake mix is an ingredient for a beverage that is not listed in Schedule 2 of the GST Act. Leo's shake mix is therefore subject to GST.

Example 2

Anne sells 'Slimbar', a meal replacement bar. Its ingredients include:

  • milk powder
  • glucose
  • nuts
  • rolled oats
  • dried fruits
  • vegetable oils
  • various vitamins
  • minerals etc.

'Slimbar' is sold through pharmacies and is sometimes recommended by doctors to patients needing to reduce weight.

'Slimbar' is a product similar to a health food bar or a muesli bar which are listed in Schedule 1 of the GST Act as food that is not GST-free.

'Slimbar' is therefore subject to GST.

Example 3

Marita produces a low calorie powdered formula which is added to water to make a beverage that is designed to form part of a treatment program for those disabled by illness, for example, the morbidly obese. It is mainly sold through hospitals to patients under medical supervision.

The product provides the essential nutrition to sustain people who are enfeebled or disabled by an illness, and is clearly labelled and promoted as such. It is supplied and marketed principally as a food for invalids.

The powdered formula is an ingredient for a beverage of a kind listed in Schedule 2 of the GST Act.

The sale of Marita's product will be GST-free.

End of example

More information

End of find out more
    Last modified: 24 May 2014QC 20180