Confidence and precision in claims
Consumers are increasingly aware of the link between their diet and their health. Claims can help them to make the right food choices for them. Many manufacturers also regard claims as a handy marketing tool. Whether intentionally or not, their claims can mislead consumers – but that’s illegal.
To prevent consumers from being misled, various rules have been drawn up and the use of claims has been constrained, such as by the European Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods. This law ensures that claims can be checked to protect consumers from being misled, whether intentionally or not. Now, all claims must meet a number of demands including being backed by scientific evidence that is verified by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
What constitutes a claim?
According to the law, a claim is “any message or representation, which is not mandatory under legislation and which suggests that a food has particular characteristics”. This is a very broad definition which is open to interpretation, but it undeniably means that advertising must also comply with this law.
Two kinds of claims
The regulation distinguishes between health-related and nutrition-related claims. A ‘health claim’ implies a relationship between a food category, food or ingredient and consumer health. Examples include: ‘Potassium is good for blood pressure’ or ‘Calcium supports bone health’. A ‘nutrition claim’ indicates that the product has a certain nutrient profile, such as ‘source of fibre’ or ‘sugar-free’.
Besides these two types of claims, there are also claims that can fall under both definitions, such as a ‘contains’ claim. This can be considered to be both a health claim (‘Contains antioxidants’) and a nutrition claim (‘Contains vitamin C’).
Meanwhile, some claims are not covered by either category, such as ‘Contains sunflower oil’. All in all, this makes it difficult and challenging to check claims. There are lots of things to take into account when assessing a claim, and not only the above-mentioned claims regulation but also other legislation can be relevant.