Nutrition and health claims on foods are controlled in the EU by dedicated legislation, Regulation 1924/2006, which is separate from the rest of the general controls on food information. The Regulation defines 'claim', 'nutrition claim' and 'health claim':
'claim' means any message or representation, which is not mandatory under Community or national legislation, including pictorial, graphic or symbolic representation, in any form, which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular characteristics.
'nutrition claim' means any claim that states, suggests or implies that a food has particular beneficial nutritional properties due to:
(a) the energy (calorific value) it
(ii) provides at a reduced or increased rate, or
(iii) does not provide, and/or
(b) the nutrients or other substances it
(ii) contains in reduced or increased proportions, or
(iii) does not contain.
'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.
A key point is that statements are only claims within the scope of the controls if they could be construed as implying a benefit for nutrition or health.
The definition of 'nutrition claim' refers to beneficial 'nutrients' and 'other substances'. These are defined as:
'nutrient' means protein, carbohydrate, fat, fibre, sodium, vitamins and minerals listed in the Annex to Directive 90/496/EEC, and substances that belong to or are components of one of those categories.
'other substance' means a substance other than a nutrient that has a nutritional or physiological effect.
In short, a nutrition claim is a claim about a constituent of a food. A health claim goes further and relates a food or one of its constituents to health or well-being.
The Regulation applies to nutrition and health claims, made commercially in the labelling, presentation or advertising of foods to be delivered as such to the final consumer or caterers.
Trade marks, brand names or fancy names that may be construed as nutrition or health claims, and non-specific health claims, are within the scope of the controls. They can be used if sustained by an accompanying permitted nutrition or health claim as appropriate.