What Kind Of Health Claims Are Allowed On Food Labels?

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

July 20, 2022

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Today’s food markets are filled with packaged food products having all sorts of health claims and declarations on it. These Claims make consumers aware of the special health or nutrition properties of the food and help in picking up the right product. A claim as defined by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) means, “any representation which is printed, oral, audio or visual and states, suggests, or implies that a food has particular qualities relating to its origin, nutritional properties, nature, processing, composition or otherwise.” Manufacturers thrive on such claims that garners them a good product status and high sales in the market.

What are Health Claims?

There are various claims that food manufacturers can make depending on the composition of their products. The various claims allowed on a food label are nutrition claims, health claims, non-addition claims, claims related to dietary guidelines or healthy diets and conditional claims. Speaking specifically on Health Claims, the Codex Alimentarius Commission in its ‘Guidelines for Use of Nutrition and Health Claims’ has defined a Health claim as “any representation that states, suggests, or implies that a relationship exists between a food or a constituent of that food and health.” A Health Claim usually consists of two parts

  • Statement on the healthy relationship that is the physiological role of the nutrient/ substance/ diet.

  • And information on the composition of the product relevant to the physiological role of the nutrient/ substance/ diet.

Apart from this, if a health claim is made for which the Recommended Dietary Allowance value is present then, the claim should have statements like a source of/ high in the constituent or low/ reduced/ free of the constituent. It should also have a statement declaring the quantity of the nutrient per 100g/ml for which the claim is made and wherever possible the target group should be mentioned as well. 

An example of a health claim is- ‘This product is low in sodium (0.12g sodium/100g) and hence may help in reducing the risk of high blood pressure.’

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Types of Health Claims allowed on a Food Label

Health Claims are divided into three types

  1. Nutrient Function Claims- describing the role of the nutrient in the functioning of the body.

  2. Other Function Claims- describing beneficial effects of food or constituent in normal body functioning or bringing a positive contribution to health.

  3. Reduction of Disease Risk Claims- describing the benefit of eating the food or constituent to reduce the risk of certain diseases. 

Nutrient- health relationship for which health claims are allowed on a food label as per FSSAI is given in the table below

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Apart from these claims, FSSAI has also given guidelines for health claims allowed on a food label to be used for fortified foods and includes claims on Vitamins and Mineral content. 

Misleading Health Claims 

A food manufacturer has to strictly follow the regulations as stated by FSSAI and make responsible health claims that do not mislead the consumer but gives meaningful information. However, many manufacturers misuse the trust of consumers and get away from the regulators by stating misleading and inaccurate health claims. Claims such as that food help to increase immunity or is healthy without full proof substantiation are all dubious and should not be trusted. Policy makers should play a key role in identifying these loopholes and strife to serve the everyday consumer by implementing strict policies. Manufacturers on their part should avoid stating false claims and be non-ambiguous in their claims. Lastly, consumers should be smart by asking the right questions and be informed about these wrong practices, so that they can make the right product selection. 

Also Read - Difference Between Nutrition Claims and Health Claims

REFERENCES

1. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Food Safety and Standards (Advertising and Claims) Regulations, 2018. Retrieved from FSSAI.

2. Codex Alimentarius Commission. Guidelines for Use of Nutrition and Health Claims. CAC/GL 23-1997. Retrieved from Guidelines | CODEXALIMENTARIUS FAO-WHO.

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Olivia Crasto (MSc in Food Processing & Preservation)

Olivia is a Learner for Life, Eco enthusiast and loves to experience nature and its beauty

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