What are health claims and what do they mean?

Nutrition content claims and health claims are voluntary statements made by food companies. These claims can appear on food labels and in advertising. These claims may refer to the nutritional content of the food (these are nutrition content claims) or they may refer to a relationship between food, or a property of food, and a health effect (these are health claims).

What does this mean for me?

Nutrition content claims These claims are about a certain nutrient or substance either being, or not being in a food. E.g.  ‘This food is high in calcium’. These claims must meet certain criteria set out by the Food Standards Code.

General level health claims These are claims about something in a food and how it can affect your health. E.g. ‘Fibre helps keep you regular ’. These types of claims cannot be used for serious diseases e.g. heart disease or to indicators of a serious disease e.g. cholesterol. There is a list of general level health claims companies can use. A company can use a general level health claim not listed in the Standard but they will need to support their claim with scientific evidence.

High level health claims These are claims about something in a food and how it can affect a serious disease or indicator of a serious disease. E.g.  ‘This food is low in sodium (salt). A diet low in sodium may help reduce blood pressure’. Only pre-approved ‘food-health relationships’ for high level health claims are allowed to be made. All health claims must be supported by scientific evidence and will only be allowed if the food meets the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Calculator (NPSC). For example, foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt are not allowed to carry a health claim 1.

Remember, some of the healthiest foods may not have labels or health claims (e.g. fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, lentils, beans, fresh meat and fish).

For more information about nutrition and health claims, visit the FSANZ website.

If health claims are confusing and you’re not sure if a food can be included in your diet, we recommend you contact an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) for expert advice on choosing foods that are right for you.

 

 

 

  1. Food Standards Australia New Zealand, September 2014, Nutrition, Health and related claims accessed 24 March 2016