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What are health claims?


In parallel with the steady increase in the use of food supplements by the Italian population, we often find a general confusion and little clarity on the regulation of this type of products and on health claims that can be associated with food supplements.

Actually, regulations are very clear and provide FBOs (Food Supplements Operators) with all indications required to proceed correctly and market only compliant food supplements, thus protecting both companies’ activity and the final consumers’ health.

With reference to the latter, it is essential to be always fair and transparent in the information provided, especially when referred to supplement’s claims.

The essential tool in such information is the label of the food supplement itself, that allows consumers to learn the product’s composition, any indication of how to use it, the company’s details as well as the product’s characteristics and its potential benefits for consumers.

Food Supplements Advertising

Advertising is also a useful tool to promote products, as it offers the chance to provide more information and details than those stated in the label. Moreover, there are now many means of dissemination allowing maximum visibility to products and in every sector.

Online sales, still in compliance with the legislation, have also given companies the possibility to reach a larger number of consumers who can choose and buy all supplements they need in total autonomy, and whenever they prefer.

However, consumers’ health and protection should never be forgotten, as they might not be aware of supplement regulations or any technical background, and therefore they cannot be competent to perform a critical evaluation of labels or advertisements.

The elements most attracting consumers, thus inviting them to buy the products, are the beneficial properties attributed to food supplements, i.e. the claims.

Examples of Incorrect Claims

What are the claims, and in particular, what are the health claims?

To better explain what we are referring to when we talk about claims, we can reprise the definition of claim provided in the Regulation (EC) no. 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods, that defines “claims” as 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.

Therefore, based on the formulation of the food supplement, one of the examples of health claims that are admitted, and specific for a single ingredient contained in the product’s formulation, can be then reported in the label or advertisement.

These are health claims stating, suggesting or implying the existence of a relation between a category of foods, a food or one of its components to health.

Of course, it is always essential to report authorised claims only, in compliance with the assessment by the EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority.

In addition to the examples of health claims, the regulation also deals with nutritional claims. In this case, we refer to the nutritional claims that should be intended as any claim stating, suggesting or implying that a food has special beneficial nutritional properties.

Claims such as “sugars-free”, “low sodium/salt” or “high fibre” fall into this category. These are all nutritional claims that can be attributed to a food product, and therefore to a food supplement as well, provided that they comply with the relevant conditions of application.

It is then evident that, before preparing a label or an ad for a food supplement, it is necessary to involve not only the company marketing and commercial department, but also and above all, the regulatory affairs that is able to check, thanks to their technical competence, whether all contents are suitable and compliant with the regulations.

Written by: Federica Montozzi

Foto di subarasikiai da Pixabay