Health Claims

One of the biggest talking points within the functional food industry is undoubtedly health claims, and with good reason. Health claims provide key drivers for the purchase of nearly all functional foods and nutraceuticals; having far greater importance with consumers than nutrition claims, taste and even cost. Alimentarius have been leaders in health claim substantiation since 2003, when we first provided a range of ‘weight management claims’ for functional foods and nutraceutical products. These breakthrough claims were compliant with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code and allowed what had previously been niche weight management products to successfully compete in the mainstream market. One product quickly obtained listings in Boots, Holland and Barrett, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, were it was able to take a significant market share. Details of this case can be found here. Over several years Alimentarius provided CAP compliant marketing claims for a complete range of sports nutrition products, including powdered drinks, ready to drink products (RTDs), gels, bars, capsules, pills, tablets and softgels. Each of these products benefited from a spectrum of ‘breakthrough’ claims relating to ‘body composition’, ‘recovery’, ‘muscle performance’ and ‘mental function’. The claims provided our client with numerous unique points of difference in the crowded sports nutrition market and established them as leading brands within Europe. Case studies relating to health claims provided by Alimentarius for sports performance, physique development and health and beauty products can be found here. Alimentarius submitted a selection of these claims for review via article 13.1 and these were given a positive opinion by the EFSA panel.

There is a commonly held belief that application of the positive EFSA opinions will simply require transcription of the health claim wording to product packaging and marketing materials. In reality using these claims while simultaneously ensuring legal and regulatory compliance will be much more complex. Factors such as ingredient source, directions for use, food matrix interactions and medicines law will all need to be carefully considered on a case by case basis. In many EU member states local regulation will still have precedence over positive opinions from the EFSA panel. For example in the UK the advertising complaints are investigated by the ASA who state:-

“.. . in the absence of adequate substantiation the ASA may regard claims as misleading…”.

The requirement for substantiating evidence will make it problematic to use positive EFSA health claims opinions for marketing purposes. This situation arises because EFSA have incorrectly attributed a health benefit to a range of ingredients, when in fact only a subgroup of ingredients produce the claimed effect. In addition, the EFSA panel has incorrectly provided positive opinions for ingredients at doses that are lower than those needed to produce the claimed effect. The UK CAP code states:-

“…before distributing or submitting a marketing communication or publication marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims…”.

Because the scientific evidence does not support several positive EFSA health claim opinions, their use for marketing will result in advertising breaches for noncompliance.

Over an 8 year period Alimentarius has provided its clients with more than 200 CAP compliant ‘breakthrough’ health claims. These unique claims covered a wide range of ingredients including proteins, amino acids, creatine, fats, complex carbohydrates, sugars, caffeine, vitamins, minerals, prebiotics and plant extracts. These have successfully been used to market more than 100 different functional food products in the areas of sports performance, physique development, weight management and health and beauty. For examples of our case studies relating to health claims click here.