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The science of nutrition and healthy eating
The science of nutrition and healthy eating

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8 Packaging claims – to confuse the unwary shopper

Many food products make claims on the packaging such as ‘high protein’, ‘balanced carbs’, ‘high fibre’, ‘contains calcium – good for bones’ or ‘low fat’ (Figure 9). These claims are now regulated by EU legislation and must have scientific evidence to support them.

Image is of certain statements you may see on food.
Figure 9 Typical attention-grabbing claims on food packaging

The European Food Safety Authority produces a list of approved health claims allowed on food. Scientific evidence must be provided for any others. Examples of approved health claims include:

  • beta-glucans contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels
  • calcium is needed to maintain normal bones
  • folate contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy
  • iron contributes to reducing tiredness and fatigue.

Where a particular ingredient is mentioned, the amount of it must be given in the nutritional information on the pack.

However, this may still confuse unwary shoppers. As mentioned in Week 1, the low-fat versions of some yoghurts may have more sugar than the full-fat version. Low-fat foods must have less than 3% fat but they can have any amount of other nutrients. The ‘reduced-fat’ label can be even more confusing. Reduced-fat food must have 30% less fat than the manufacturer’s standard product, but it can still be high in fat.

Many food outlets now post the full nutritional information online. For example, a ‘skinny’ blueberry muffin from a well-known coffee chain contains only 2.5 g of fat, compared with 23.1 g in the classic blueberry muffin. But it still contains 24.6 g of sugar, which is over a quarter (27%) of the RI value. In terms of energy, the skinny muffin still provides 317 kcal – about 16% of the RI value!