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Nutrition and health claims - new rules

25 July 2007

The beginning of this month saw the application of EC Regulation 1924/2006 for Nutrition and Health Claims made for foods in all member states.

This new legislation is complex and its application is subject to a number of exceptions and transition periods. We would urge any food business operators making nutrition or health claims in commercial communications, including advertising, packaging and promotional campaigns to seek specific advice before making those claims. In simple terms, you should take note of two key dates:

  • All new product development on or after 1 July 2007 must comply with these Regulations
  • With some narrow exceptions, the long stop date for compliance for existing products is 31 July 2009. Food business operators are responsible to ensure that they operate the appropriate timetable to comply with the relevant rules applying to their claims

Claims are divided into two categories:

  • Nutrition claims
  • Health claims

The Regulation prescribes the conditions which a food must satisfy before either category of claims can be made in relation to it. In addition, there are:

  • Prohibited claims - these cannot be made under any circumstances


The Regulation will apply to non-mandatory nutrition or health claims made in commercial communications, including:

However, food business operators must note that the scope of this Regulation is not confined to claims contained in promotional statements. Trade marks and other brand names, which may be construed as claims must also comply with the Regulation.

An example would be the "BJ Light Bite Biscuit" (currently just a crumb of an idea!). The "BJ Light" implies that there would be health or nutrition advantages in eating a "lighter" biscuit. It might well be marketed as a healthy option. As it includes a nutrition claim, it will need to comply with the new rules.

An interesting exception is the digestive biscuit. The word digestive suggests that it is good for the digestive system but as a traditional description, it has been specifically excluded from the new rules.

General requirements for all claims

The general requirements are too numerous to be listed in their entirety here. However, by way of example, claims must:

  • Not be false, ambiguous or misleading
  • Not give rise to doubt about the safety and/or nutritional adequacy of other foods
  • Not encourage or condone excess consumption of a food
  • Not state, suggest or imply that a balanced and varied diet cannot provide quantities of nutrients in general (provisions are in place for exemptions to this to be adopted, but they have yet to be utilised)
  • Comply with specific conditions set for nutrition and health claims
  • Be substantiated by generally accepted scientific evidence
  • Be expressed in terms which are comprehensible to the average consumer

By 19 January 2009, the EC Commission will have established specific criteria on nutritional composition of foods referred to in the Regulation as nutrient profiles. If applicable, foods will have to meet their profile in its entirety before a claim may be made. However, if only one nutrient is found to be inconsistent with the profile, then a nutrition claim (and not a health claim) will be permitted to be made provided that the high content of the out-of-profile nutrient is also disclosed. Such disclosure must be in the same field of vision and in the same size and typeface as the claim.

Nutrition claims

Nutrition claim is defined in the Regulation as:

Any claim which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular nutritional properties due to:

the energy (calorific value) it:

  • provides
  • provides at a reduced or increased rate or
  • does not provide and/or

the nutrients or other substances it:

  • contains
  • contains in reduced or increased proportions or
  • does not contain

Nutrition claims as defined above are permitted only if they are listed in the Annex to the Regulation. However, nutrition claims which have been used before 1 January 2006 in accordance with national legislation and which are not included in the Annex may continue to be used until 19 January 2010.

Beverages containing more than 1.2 alcohol will not be allowed to make nutrition claims except for "low alcohol", "reduced alcohol" and "reduced energy" claims.

Health claims

"Any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of the constituents and health".

Health claims will eventually only be permitted if they are listed in the Community Register. Until the Community Register is adopted, national rules apply. However, unless a transitional measure applies, certain claims are now forbidden. These are:

  • Health claims relating to alcoholic beverages
  • Claims which suggest that health could be affected by not consuming the food
  • Claims which make reference to the rate or amount of weight loss
  • Claims which make reference to the recommendations of individual doctors or health professionals

Once the Community Register has been adopted, health claims will have to be authorised and listed before they can be made. This will be the responsibility of the food business operator, who will be able to submit applications together with supporting documentation for health claims to be included on the Community Register.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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