Health Claims | FAQs
September 03, 2019 Dr Stacey Lockyer By Dr Stacey Lockyer Follow

Health Claims | FAQs

What are health claims and how are they regulated in Europe? Read on to find answers to your FAQs.

1. What are health claims? 

Health claims are statements suggesting a link between consuming the product and a health benefit,1 which you may see on some food and drink labels and adverts.

Examples of approved health claims are:2

  • ‘Vitamin K contributes to normal blood clotting’,
  • ‘Reducing consumption of sodium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure’,
  • ‘Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet has been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.’

2. When a label says that a food is ‘high in’ or a ‘source of’ a nutrient, is that a health claim?

Strictly speaking, such statements are not health claims. Claims about what a food does or doesn’t contain are called a nutrition claims.3 Examples include:

  • ‘Fat free’,
  • ‘Source of fibre’,
  • ‘High in protein’ and
  •  ‘With no added sugars’.

Products have to meet particular criteria in order to use nutrition claims (e.g. a product must contain at least 3 g of fibre per 100 g, or at least 1.5 g of fibre per 100 kcal in order to use the nutrition claim ‘source of fibre’).

3. Are health and nutrition claims regulated?

Yes, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) looks at the evidence behind health claims to check that there is sufficient enough scientific evidence to support these claims, before giving an opinion to the European Commission on whether or not the claim should be approved.

Read about how health claims are regulated.

4. Can a health claim be used even if a product contains a very small quantity of a nutrient or ingredient that may have health benefits?

No. Products must contain a minimum amount of a nutrient, ingredient or food component in a portion size that could be reasonably consumed within the context of a healthy, balanced diet (as set by EFSA).

So for example, you would need to consume 2 kg of a food in order to get enough of the beneficial nutrient, ingredient or component (which could result in undesirable effects such as weight gain), the claim could not be used on that product.

5. Are there any rules around wording?

The official wording of claims is decided by the European Commission, but food companies can change the wording to make the claim more user-friendly, as long as it is similar to the original claim and does not mislead us (e.g. by exaggerating the claim).

Manufacturers may use a more simple, shortened version of a claim, followed by an asterisk which details the full approved wording. For example, on food labels you might see:

‘Vitamin D for strength*’

and then the asterisk (*) somewhere else on the label:
‘*Vitamin D contributes to normal muscle function’ somewhere else on the label.

Read more about about health claims.

Let us know what you think when you see health claims used on product packaging in the comments section below!

September 03, 2019 Dr Stacey Lockyer By Dr Stacey Lockyer Follow

References

  1. EC Health Claims. Accessed 28 August 2019
  2. EC Nutrition and health claims register. Accessed 28 August 2019
  3. EC Nutrition claims. Accessed 28 August 2019