General principles

The Regulation on nutrition and health claims is applied to the marketing and advertising of products in all forms

General principles of use of claims In addition to packages marketed to the final consumer, the Claims Regulation is also applied to the marketing and advertising of products in all their forms, such as printed products, internet, in electronic form, radio, TV and product presentations.

Nutrition and health claims may only be used in the labelling, presentation or advertising of foods provided the claim and the food fulfil, in particular, the requirements and conditions laid down in Articles 3 and 5 of the Claims Regulation.

The Claims Regulation is also applied in situations where the consumer can link the claim presented with a specific product, even if the product is not directly said to have the claimed property. In other words, the image created of the product shall also be compliant with the Claims Regulation and particularly Article 3 of the Regulation.

For example

  • if scientific articles regarding omega-3 fatty acids are quoted on a website that markets omega-3 fatty acid products, this is construed as a health claim. 
  • if a website marketing a food describes how an ingredient of the food, in this case omega-3 fatty acids, has been traditionally used as a folk remedy, this is construed as a health claim or a prohibited medicinal claim, depending on the claim.

 

Information provided to professionals

According to Section 9 of the Food Act, food must not in food packaging, presentation and advertising, or in some other way in connection with marketing be presented as having properties related to prevention, treatment or curing of human diseases or refer to such information, unless otherwise provided elsewhere in the law. Such claims are only permitted on medicines.

The Food Act is applied to food and the conditions in which it is handled and to food business operators and food control at all stages in the production, processing and distribution of food (section 2). As the Act is applied at all food distribution stages, Evira's interpretation is that food may not be presented to have any medicinal effects in marketing targeted at professionals either.

According to Article 1(2) of Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods, the Regulation is applied to nutrition and health claims made in commercial communications, whether in the labelling, presentation or advertising of foods to be delivered as such to the final consumer.

The Court of Justice of the European Union gave on 14 July 2016 (case C-19/15) its judgment on the applicability of Article 1(2) of the Claims Regulation to marketing addressed to health professionals. The judgment of the Court stated: "Article 1(2) of Regulation No 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on nutrition and health claims made on foods must be interpreted as meaning that nutrition or health claims made in a commercial communication on a food which is intended to be delivered as such to the final consumer, if that communication is addressed not to the final consumer, but exclusively to health professionals, falls within the scope that Regulation."

  • In other words, the legislation on claims shall be complied with also in commercial communication addressed to health professionals.

 

Nutrition and health claims may only be used in the labelling, presentation and advertising of foods provided the following preconditions are met:

Nutrition and health claims may not (Regulation on nutrition and health claims, Article 3)

  • be false, ambiguous or misleading;
  • give rise to doubt about the safety and/or the nutritional adequacy of other foods;
  • encourage or condone excess consumption of a food;
  • state, suggest or imply that a balanced and varied diet cannot provide appropriate quantities of nutrients in general;
  • refer to changes in bodily functions which could give rise to or exploit fear in the consumer.

In Evira's view, it is forbidden to state, for example, in the marketing of products containing vitamin D that regular Finnish food does not contain a sufficient amount of vitamin D, thus intimidating consumers by describing illnesses resulting from a vitamin D deficiency.

Claims may only be made for healthy foods (Regulation on nutrition and health claims, Article 4)

The Commission is expected to establish nutrient profiles, which shall be respected for the use of claims. After the nutrient profiles have been established, foodstuffs for which a nutrition claim or a health claim is made shall comply with the criteria of the profile.

Nutrient profiling refers to the categorisation of food on the basis of their composition. The aim of profiling is to avoid a situation where nutrition or health claims mask the true character of products that are detrimental to health. This way they prevent the misleading of consumers.

When the nutrient profiles have been established, Evira will provide information about the approved profiles and the action operations are required to take.

Health claims may not be made for alcoholic beverages. Nutrition claims may only be made referring to:

  • low alcohol levels, 
  • the reduction of the alcohol content, or 
  • the reduction of the energy content.

 

The nutrient for which the claim is made must be beneficial and contained in the product in an adequate quantity (Regulation on nutrition and health claims, Article 5)

The claimed nutritional or physiological effect must be substantiated by generally accepted scientific data.

The claim shall be such that the average consumer can be expected to understand the beneficial effects as expressed in the claim.

Authorised claims and the conditions for their use can be found in the list maintained by the Commission. The required quantity of the nutrient in the food for the claim to be made has been defined in respect of both nutrition and health claims.

The intake of the nutrient for which a claim is made should be significant in normal use of the food. The defined amount should be provided by a quantity of the food that can reasonably be expected to be consumed in a day.

 

Food business operator’s responsibility

The European Commission has issued an implementing decision on the guidelines for the application of Article 10 of the Regulation on nutrition and health claims for use by national regulatory authorities and the food business operators.

However, even if a health claim is authorised in accordance with the Commission's implementing decision, the claim may not be used unless it satisfies all the requirements set out in the Regulation on nutrition and health claims. Food business operators are required to demonstrate full compliance and provide an account of the measures they have taken to meet the requirements of each section of the Regulation.

• Only authorised claims in accordance with the Regulation on nutrition and health claims are to be used
• The mandatory information required in connection with the use of authorised claims is to be provided

  

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