Nutrient content claims are a type of nutrition claim used to market a food based on the level of a nutrient or biologically active substance in that food. A biologically active substance is a constituent of the food, other than a nutrient, that has a health effect. That is, they have an effect on the human body, such as influencing biochemical, physiological or functional processes, mental or physical performance, growth and development or a health condition. Examples of biologically active substances include antioxidants and probiotic bacteria.
Nutrient content claims are just one type of nutrition claim. The others are, general level health claims and high level health claims. Health claims focus on the effect of a nutrient or biologically active substance on health. All three types of nutrition claims are regulated in the Food Standards Code (FSC). To make a nutrition claim you must meet the conditions for that claim, as specified in the FSC.
Nutrient content claims generally have fewer requirements than health claims but, don’t let this fool you, there are still requirements that you need to be aware of to ensure your claims are compliant. The most common mistakes with these claims arise when what you want to say is not listed in the FCS. The most common scenarios are:
- The nutrient or biologically active substance is not included.
- The descriptor (e.g. high, low, free) for the particular nutrient is not listed.
- The claim is a statement of fact that actually has conditions around its use.
Three examples of these common pitfalls are:
1. High in Antioxidants
This is an example of scenario number one, the nutrient or biologically active substance is not included in the FSC. In this situation the FSC specifies that, you can only claim:
- the presence of the substance, or
- specify amount the amount of the substance, or
- a combination of the two.
What does this have to do with Antioxidants? Antioxidants are biologically active substances that are not included in the nutrition claims standard of the FSC. This means you can only make a claim that your product, contains antioxidants or specify the amount of antioxidants in your product. Making the claim “high in antioxidants” is not complaint.
2. Low Carbohydrate
This is an example of scenario number two, the descriptor for the nutrient is not listed in the FSC.
Carbohydrate is included in the nutrition claims standard but, "low" is not listed as a descriptor. This means that, there are no criteria that define what is considered a low carbohydrate content. Interestingly, neither the US FDA or the EU regulations have a definition for low carbohydrate nutrition claims. So if you want to claim “low in carbohydrate” you have the responsibility of substantiating and being able to defend your particular definition of low in carbohydrate. The challenge, if the regulators of the US, EU and Australia have all refrained from defining low carbohydrate, can it actually be defined in a way that is not potentially deceptive or misleading? My recommendation, try a reduced carbohydrate claim as the FSC does have criteria for this.
3. 95% Fat Free
This is an example of scenario three, the claim is a statement of fact that actually has conditions about its use. A product with 5g of total fat per 100g is 95% fat free. That is a simple statement of fact. The problem is that it is not a fact that is compliant with the FSC. This is because the FSC limits percent fat free claims to products that are low in fat. For foods this 97% fat free or more and for liquids 98.5% fat free or more. It makes sense right? Percent fat free implies the product is low fat so the regulations help ensure that percent fat free claims are not used on higher fat products.
These are just some of the examples of where businesses can come unstuck when making nutrition claims. Making nutrition claims is a great way to communicate the nutrition features or benefits or your products. It can also be a great way to differentiate your brand. With awareness of the requirements and the right guidance you’ll see there are many ways to communicate your message in a compliant way. The trick – the right combination of nutrition and regulatory expertise.
A The Nutrition Providers we love helping business communicate nutrition in a way that is both compliant and engaging. If you'd like to talk about how we can support you click on the link below.