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Ensuring accurate and evidence-based nutrition and health claims for foods

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Ensuring accurate and evidence-based nutrition and health claims for foods

An increasing number of foods labelled and advertised in the European Union (EU) bear nutrition and health claims. In order to ensure a high level of protection for consumers and to facilitate their choice, products put on the market must be safe and adequately labelled.

ACT

Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods

SUMMARY

An increasing number of foods labelled and advertised in the European Union (EU) bear nutrition and health claims. In order to ensure a high level of protection for consumers and to facilitate their choice, products put on the market must be safe and adequately labelled.

WHAT DOES THE REGULATION DO?

It aims to ensure that nutrition and health claims on food labels and in presentations and advertising are clear and based on evidence that is generally accepted by the scientific community.

There is a wide range of substances such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, fibre and herbal extracts with a nutritional or physiological effect that might be present in a food and be the subject of a claim. The regulation ensures a high level of consumer protection, gives the consumer the necessary information to make choices in full knowledge of the facts, as well as creating equal conditions of competition for the food industry.

KEY POINTS

The European Commission (EC) must draw up nutrient profiles and conditions for the use of nutrition and health claims on foods, taking into account:

the quantities of nutrients and other substances contained in the food, such as:

fatty acids*;

saturated fatty acids*;

trans-fatty acids*;

sugars; and

salt;

the role and importance of the food in the diet in general or risk groups such as children;

the presence of nutrients scientifically recognised as having an effect on health.

Health claims should not:

be false, ambiguous or misleading;

give rise to doubt about the safety or nutritional adequacy of other foods;

encourage excess consumption;

suggest that a balanced and varied diet cannot provide appropriate quantities of nutrients.

make suggestions that health could be affected by not consuming the food;

refer to a rate or amount of weight loss;

refer to recommendations of individual health professionals.

The use of nutrition and health claims will only be allowed if the presence, absence or reduced content in a food of a substance has been shown to have a beneficial effect, as established by accepted scientific data. Such substances must be in quantities that can be reasonably consumed and in an amount to give the desired effect.

Health claims will only be allowed if the following information is on the label:

the target population for the claim;

a statement of the importance of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle;

the quantity and pattern of consumption needed to obtain the claimed beneficial effect;

a statement aimed at persons who should avoid using the food (e.g. pregnant women);

a warning for products likely to present a health risk if consumed to excess;

where reduced risk of disease is claimed, a statement that the disease has multiple risk factors and altering one of these factors may or may not have a beneficial effect;

any other restrictions or directions for use.

Health claims based on generally accepted scientific data, well understood by the average consumer, may be exempt from the authorisation process.

Drinks containing more than 1.2 % by volume of alcohol must not bear health or nutrition claims other than to refer to a reduction in the alcohol or energy content.

Application for authorisation

The manufacturer must submit an application to the European Union (EU) country concerned, which will forward it to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EC then makes a decision on the use of the claim based on the EFSA’s opinion.

WHEN DOES THE REGULATION APPLY?

From 1 July 2007.

For more information, see:

KEY TERMS

* Fatty acids: fatty acids are basic units of fat molecules. They contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

* Saturated fatty acids: the more hydrogen atoms attached to each carbon atom, the more saturated the fatty acid is. Examples of sources of saturated fatty acids are: coconut oil, fatty meats and cocoa butter.

* Trans-fatty acids: when unsaturated fats are put through the hydrogenation process (for example, to make margarine), trans-fatty acids are created. The hydrogenation process was developed to stop fats from going rancid quickly. They are often found in commercially produced bakery products.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006

19.1.2007

1.7.2007

OJ L 404, 30.12.2006, pp. 9-25

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 107/2008

4.3.2008

-

OJ L 39 of 13.2.2008, pp. 8-10

Regulation (EC) No 109/2008

4.3.2008

-

OJ L 39 of 13.2.2008, pp. 14-15

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011

12.12.2011

-

OJ L 304 of 22.11.2011, pp. 18-63

Regulation (EU) No 1047/2012

29.11.2012

-

OJ L 310 of 9.11.2012, pp. 36-37

RELATED ACTS

Commission Regulation (EC) No 353/2008 of 18 April 2008 establishing implementing rules for applications for authorisation of health claims as provided for in Article 15 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council (Official Journal L 109 of 19.4.2008, pp. 11-16).

Last updated: 06.08.2015

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