Trading Standards

Health & Nutrition Claims

This advice is designed to provide basic guidance to traders. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law.

In December 2006, European Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on the use of nutrition and health claims for foods was adopted by the EC Council and Parliament. These Regulations are enforced in England by the Nutrition & Health Claims (England) Regulations 2007.

The EC Regulation lays down harmonised rules for the use of health and/or nutritional claims on foodstuffs, based on nutrient profiles and aims to:

  • ensure that any claim made on a food label in the EU is clear, accurate and substantiated,

  • ensure that only products offering genuine health or nutritional benefits will be allowed to refer to them on their labels

  • enable consumers to make informed and meaningful choices when it comes to food and drinks and therefore contribute to a higher level of human health protection,

  • enable EC citizens to make healthier lifestyle choices by allowing citizens to know exactly what they are consuming, and

  • ensure fair competition and promote and protect innovation in the area of food

 

When do I have to comply?

The Regulations came into force on 1 July 2007. However there are a number of transitional provisions phasing in the different requirements, particularly in relation to the health claims provisions and nutrient profiling.

The nutrition claims provisions are already in force. Only nutrition claims in accordance with the annex to the EC Regulation may be made. Claims that are no longer permitted are being phased out during 2009.

There are no nutrient profiles agreed at present. These will be agreed by will be adopted by 19 January 2009. Nutrient claims may then be further restricted to prevent beneficial claims being made on products with otherwise unhealthy nutrient profiles. Food business operators will  have two years to comply with these controls.

When fully in force only health claims which have been approved and listed may be made in relation to foodstuffs and then only in accordance with any condition on the list. The deadline for production of the list is currently 31 January 2010. At present a claims assessment and approvals stage is in progress. Meanwhile health claims referring to psychological and behavioural functions, slimming or weight control, a reduction in the sense of hunger, an increase in the sense of satiety or to a reduction of the available energy from the diet and claims referring to children’s development and health, cannot be made on food unless the claim was in use before 19 th January 2007 and an application for authorisation has been submitted. Claims which are not approved will  have a transition period to be phased out of use.

 

General requirements

  • Nutrition and Health claims are only permitted if the average consumer can be expected to understand the beneficial effects as expressed in the claim.

  • Claims must not be false, ambiguous or misleading, nor encourage or condone excess consumption of a food and must not implying that a balanced diet cannot provide necessary nutrients.

  • Claims about the presence, absence or reduced content in a food or category of food of a nutrient or other substance can only be made if has been shown to have a beneficial nutritional or physiological effect, as established by generally accepted scientific evidence.

  • Claims about a nutrient may only be made where it is present in a significant quantity and is bio available to produce the nutritional effect claimed.

  • Where a claim is made, prescribed nutrition labelling must be given (with exemptions for non prepacked and certain direct sales to consumers and mass caterers).

  • Claims must not be made on alcoholic beverages containing more than 1.2% by volume of alcohol, with limited exceptions for reduced energy or reduced alcohol and low alcohol content claims.

 

Nutrition claims

A nutrition claim is defined as:

“Any claim which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular beneficial nutritional properties due to the presence, absence, increased or reduced levels of energy or of a particular nutrient or other substance.”

Nutrition claims provide factual information about the nutritional composition of the food. Some examples of nutrition claims are “reduced energy”,  “contains calcium”,  “low fat”,  “high fibre”.

Claims are permitted (subject to the conditions specified in the annex) in relation to:

Low Energy Sugars Free High Protein
Energy Reduced With No Added Sugars Source of (Vitamin or Mineral)
Energy Free Low Sodium / Salt High in (Vitamin or Mineral)
Low Fat Very Low Sodium / Salt Contains (Named Nutrient or Other Substance)
Fat Free Sodium Free / Salt Free         Increased (Named Nutrient)
Low Saturated Fat          Source of Fibre Reduced (Named Nutrient)
Saturated Fat Free     High Fibre Light / Lite
Low Sugars Source of Protein Naturally / Natural

The nutrient profiling requirements have not yet been established. When introduced claims will not be able to be made unless all the nutrient levels in the food meet the basic requirement. i.e. low fat will not be a permissible claim, even if true, on a product with high salt levels.

 

Health claims

A health claim is defined as:

“any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health”.

Health claims are different to nutrition claims as they refer to, or imply, a function in the body. For example “contains calcium” only refers to the composition of the food and is a nutrition claim.  However, “calcium helps build strong bones” refers to the function of calcium in the body and would be considered a health claim.

The following health claims cannot be made on food

  • Health claims which suggest that health could be affected by not consuming the food,

  • Health claims which make reference to the rate or amount of weight loss,

  • Health claims which make reference to recommendations of individual doctors or health professionals.

After the health claims list is published a specific or implied general claim that a food is healthy will not be permitted unless the food is also labelled with an approved claim in relation to the property which makes it healthy.

The Regulations only apply to health claims made in a commercial context and exclude claims/statements specifically provided for in other EC Legislation. For example The Spreadable Fats (Marketing Standards) Regulations 1999 requires that products with a fat content of 60-62%  to labelled "three-quarter-fat" or described as "reduced fat". In these cases use of the term “reduced fat” would not need to comply with the requirements of the Nutrition and Health claims Regulations.

This is a complicated area and this fact sheet can only give an introduction to the requirements. If you intend to make a nutrition or health claim more detailed information can be obtained from:

If you are unable to print this information or do not have Adobe Acrobat please call 01962 833620 and ask to speak to advice for a copy of this information to be sent to you.

 

 

Reviewed November 2010

B/foo/193/01 October 2008