General principles for all claims
Claims should not endorse excessive consumption of a food. Neither should they attempt to drive purchases by alarming consumers about the consequences for health of a failure to obtain adequate amounts of nutrients.
Control by nutrient profiles
The Regulation incorporates the principle that certain foods should not be permitted to bear health claims and should be restricted in making nutrition claims on the basis of the quantities of certain nutrients they contain. These controls are based on 'nutrient profiles', which set limits for nutrients such as fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt/sodium. The limits act as hurdles to be cleared before claims can be made without the nutrient profile controls applying.
The nutrient profiles for particular foods are yet to be established and so currently, while claims must never be misleading, specific nutrient profile controls are not in place. At present there is no clear timetable from the Commission regarding their development.
Alcoholic drinks cannot bear health claims, but may bear nutrition claims relating to low or reduced alcohol levels or reduced energy content. Conditions for the making of these claims are not set in Regulation 1924/2006, and may be set nationally. In the UK, conditions are set in the successor legislation to the Food Labelling Regulations 1996.
Claims are only permitted in the following circumstances:
- The claimed benefit is substantiated by scientific evidence that the maker of the claim can be asked to produce.
- The level of the nutrient is such that the claimed effect will be displayed when a realistic quantity of the food is consumed.
- The nutrient is in a form available to the body (bio-available).
- The average consumer can be expected to understand the beneficial effects.
- Claims should refer to the food prepared for consumption according to the instructions given.
Nutrition labelling of prepacked foods bearing nutrition or health claims is mandatory even where the FIC would otherwise provide an exemption for the food in question. The declaration should include the nutrient that is the subject of the claim or, where the nutrition labelling rules do not permit this, information on the content of the nutrient should be given in the same field of vision as the nutrition labelling.