Use of Nutrition and Health Claims and Symbols on Prepacked Foods in Europe: From Consumer Exposure to Public Health Implications
Nutrition and health claims can help consumers identify foods that are healthier. The pan-European CLYMBOL study found that 21% of prepacked foods carry nutrition claims while health claims were found on 11% of foods, mostly in the form of general (non-specific) health claims. However, foods carrying claims had only marginally better nutritional quality than those that did not. Assessment of food labelling information was also conducted, revealing major issues related to the use of nutrition and health claims. The development of food labels is an important step in delivery of prepacked foods that needs more attention from food manufacturers. CLYMBOL recommended that food business operators should ensure that nutrition and health claims are not used on foods with unfavourable nutrition composition. Good practice was shown by some producers through the introduction of internal nutrition profiles to limit use of claims to healthier foods. Additionally, statements on non-specific benefits of a product for overall good health or health-related well-being need to be used with care. Such statements can be helpful for consumers, as they convey more consumer-friendly messages than many authorised claims, but these can also be misunderstood, misleading consumers about potential health benefits.