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You might be aware that there are legal requirements around what you can and cannot claim on a food label, including statements related to nutrition, health and wellbeing. But what exactly is a nutrition claim, and how is it different from a health claim? 

The basics

In January 2007, the EU brought into effect the Regulation 1924/2006/EC on nutrition and health claims made on foods. The legislation defines a ‘claim’ as: 

"any message or representation, which is not mandatory under Community or national legislation, including pictorial, graphic or symbolic representation, in any form, which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular characteristics." 

The Regulation encompasses nutrition and health claims made in commercial communications (whether in the labelling, presentation or advertising) of the food to be delivered to the final consumer, including foods which are placed on the market unpacked or supplied in bulk. It also applies to foods intended for supply to restaurants, hospitals, schools, canteens and similar mass caterers. 

As of January 20th 2022, trademarks and brand names must also comply with the Regulation on nutrition and health claims. 

All nutrition and health claims must adhere to general and specific conditions, be authorised at European level and appear on a Community list of authorised claims in order to be permitted for use on foods. 

So what’s the difference between a nutrition claim and a health claim? Let’s start with the basic definitions. 

Defining nutrition and health claims

What is a claim? 

A claim is any message or representation which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular characteristics. This includes pictorial, graphic or symbolic representation, in any form. 

What is a nutrition claim? 

A nutrition claim is any claim that states, suggests or implies that a food has particular beneficial nutritional properties due to: 

  • the energy (calorific value) it (i) provides, (ii) provides at a reduced or increased rate, or (iii) does not provide, and/or
  • the nutrients or other substances it (i) contains, (ii) contains in reduced or increased proportions, or (iii) does not contain. 

Nutrition claims are the simplest type of claim about the nutrients a food contains, e.g. orange juice contains vitamin C. There is a specific list of nutrition claims permitted under the Regulation. 

What is a health claim? 

A health claim is any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health (for example, “Chloride contributes to normal digestion”). 

Under the Regulation, health claims are divided into the following categories:

  • claims referring to reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health (Article 14),
  • health claims other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children's development and health (Article 13), and
  • health claims based on newly developed scientific evidence and/or applications which include a request for the protection of proprietary data (Article 13(5)). 

So what’s the difference? 

Both nutrition and health claims are governed by the same Regulation, which is designed to protect the consumer from false or misleading information. 

In fundamental terms, nutrition claims suggest that the food in question offers particular beneficial nutritional properties, e.g. ‘contains fibre’. Health claims — while related — are slightly different, as they suggest that a relationship exists between a property of the food in question and the health of the consumer who eats it, e.g. ‘protein contributes to the maintenance of normal muscle mass’. 

Interested in learning more about the legal requirements of food labelling? Chat to one of our experts today and find out how Nutritics can help you comply with food labelling laws with ease.