Food manufacturers are only allowed to claim beneficial nutrition and health claims for their products if there is scientific evidence that the claims actually work. EU-wide rules on the use of claims by food manufactures are laid down in the Regulation on nutrition and health claims.
So what are nutrition claims and health claims, and how do they differ?
Nutrition claims highlight the nutrient content of a food. They can be used to indicate that a food is low in fat or low in sodium or is energy reduced. They can also be used to indicate that a food is high in or a source of fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Rules for each type of claim are laid down in the regulation. For example, a claim that semi-skimmed milk is low in fat can only be made if it contains less than 1.8g of fat per 100ml of milk.
Click here for a list of nutrition claims and the conditions governing their use.
Health claims are more complex but they always link a named ingredient to a specified health benefit.
For example, claims can be made for the beneficial properties of fish oils for heart health and calcium for the maintenance of normal bones.
As well as the direct links between ingredients and health conditions, claims can also be made for the reduction of a risk factor in the development of a disease (such as the use of plant sterols for cholesterol reduction, a risk factor in heart disease).
Health claims are invariably specific to particular health conditions and can be conveniently grouped into categories such as bone health, heart health and so on. The precise legal status of any health claim must always be checked against the official EU Register, but summary pages of the claims allowed for each of the main health conditions are available on our website here.
The EU rules governing health claims are very strict and all claims made by food manufacturers must be scientifically assessed before being officially authorised. Click here for more details.
You can find more information on nutrition and health claims in other sections of the site. Take a look at some of our related items to begin with.