5 things you need to know about communicating Nutrition to your customers – are you breaking the law?

Are you breaking the law?

A scary thought, and something we see too often are food businesses and even Dietitians (cringe) breaking Nutrition Claim Regulations. What’s more concerning is most have no idea these regulations even exist, until they receive a notice from the local enforcement agency.

Stay with me! Even if you aren’t actively making claims (that you know of), chances are, if you’re a business ‘talking’ food, the Nutrition Claim Regulations apply to you!

The Food Standards Code is very clear, in that, anything that is not permitted on a food label is not permitted in advertisements for food either.

Below is a list of basics you need to know if your business choses to talk nutrition:

1. There are regulations on what you can say

If you’re talking about nutrition there are regulations around nutrition and health claims. If what you’re saying falls under any of these four terms, then the regulations apply to you.

·      Claim

A claim is an expressed or implied statement, representation, design or information in relation to a food or a property of food (e.g. a component, ingredient, constituent or other feature) which is not mandatory in the Food Standards Code.

·      Nutrition content claim

A claim about energy (kJ’s or Calories), nutrients, glycaemic index or glycaemic load or a biologically active substance (non-nutrient that has a health effect). This includes declaring extra nutrients in your nutrition information panel (for example choosing to include the amount of Vitamin C).

·      Health claim

A claim about a food or a property of food and its health effect.

·      Health effect

Is an effect on the body, including a biochemical, physiological, functional process or outcome, growth and development, physical performance, mental performance, or a disease, disorder or condition.

2. If it's got your brand on it you need to follow the regulations

I often get asked does the medium where the claims are made make a difference? As I mentioned before, the Food Standards Code is pretty clear on this - anything that is not permitted on a label of a food is not permitted in advertisements for food either. So if it’s advertising then the regulations apply.


3. You may need more than just scientific substantiation

In general, if you want to make any claim about your product, you need to be able to substantiate it to avoid being deceptive or misleading (as per the consumer protection laws). Health and nutrition claims are a special case. If you want to talk about a property of food, its level in the food, or any potential effect on health, then you need to meet the conditions set out in the Food Standards Code. 


4. If it's not in the Code - you can't say it!

If you want to claim and its is not listed in the Food Standards Code or you don’t meet the conditions you have four options:

•   Don’t say it

This is my least favorite option but sadly an option that is taken all too often when there is not the support of a nutrition claims specialist who can find another approach to get your message across

•   Tweak your message or approach

This could be as easy as making a nutrient content claim in place of a health claim or changing a few words, or even making a few product tweaks. Or combining permitted claims to communicate your message. This is where the advice of a Specialist dietitian (APD) specializing in nutrition claims can be a real asset!

•   Substantiate it

In the case of some health claims, you can conduct a systematic literature review to substantiate a new food and health relationship. The process and requirements for the systematic literature review are outlined in the Food Standards Code.

•   Consider an endorsement

Endorsements from endorsing bodies have different requirements to other health and nutrition claims. In some cases, there may be an endorsement program that represents the nutrition or health area you’re interested in. 

5. You can’t really say you’re better than the rest

It’s natural, we all want to say, “our products are the best and they’ll make you better”. Reality is, most of these claims are not compliant with the Food Standards Code. Four key learning’s to remember here:

•   Your claims must link the property of the food and the health effect. That is, the claim is about the food or nutrient in your product providing the health effect not your actual product delivering the health effect.

•   Most pre-approved health claims (i.e. the things you can say) refer to the maintenance or support of normal function – not improved function. Be careful that your message is not suggesting otherwise.

•   Comparing vitamin or mineral content of different foods is not allowed.

•   Talking about the prevention, diagnosis or cure of a disease, disorder or condition is also a big no, no.

With these five key learning’s you can now confidently answer my initial question: Could you be breaking the law? And if the answer is yes, you can understand where you need action. 

Need more help?

At the Nutrition Providers, we have over 10 years experience substantiating and developing claims.  We can help your business, comply today and gain an edge over your competitors. Please use the link below to get a complimentary compliance review of your claims.


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