There are 3 different claims that you might find on a food and nutrition label of any food product on the market. They are 1) Health Claims, 2) Structure/Function Claims, and 3) Nutrient Content Claims. These claims are regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Last week we blogged on Nutrient Content Claims, so it only seemed appropriate to do a quick blog on health claims. The FDA states that health claims 'describe a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient, and reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition'. A health claim has 2 parts: 1) some kind of substance (ie. food, food product or dietary ingredient) & 2) a disease or health related condition (ie. high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, etc).
An example of a health claim might be "diets high in calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis" or "diets low in dietary fat may reduce the risk of some cancers". Calcium and low dietary fat have been studied over the years and the conclusive evidence from research suggests that they reduce the risk of the stated above. The FDA has certain requirements that these claims must maintain. Read HERE for a complete list of health claims and their requirements.
As you can see these claims are regulated and have evidence to back them up. Therefore, they are appropriate for the consumer to know and so they are appropriate to be placed on the label of a food product. If a consumer is interested in reducing their risk of osteoporosis, knowing that the products they are deciding between will or will not help them in that goal is important to purchasing a product.
On the other hand, there are claims that the manufacture places on the label that are not regulated by the FDA. These claims are simply marketing claims. They grab your attention and try to make you think you NEED a product based on the claim being marketed and a lot of times they are successful in doing so. However, the research and evidence to back them up is not there! Be aware of these statements-they are traps to get you to buy their product. Here is a short list of "marketing claims" that manufacturers use to get your money!
- Naturally raised, naturally grown
- Natural (except for the term's regulated use on meat and poultry)
- No additives
The food label and design, along with the claims, can be very eye-catching and persuasive when deciding between products, but you must be careful what "catchy" images or words make you purchase a product. Think through and know the difference between something that is helpful in knowing and something that is just there to encourage you to purchase a product! Those marketers are good...but we can outsmart them if we understand what they are doing!