Health claims on food labelsHealth claims on food labels
are regulated by government agencies in the public interest
. Manufacturers make health claims that tout the alleged health benefits of eating the food. For example, it is claimed by the manufacturers of oat cereals
that oat bran
is beneficial in reducing cholesterol
On July 10, 2003, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States announced plans to permit the manufacturers of food products sold in the United States to make health claims on food labels which are supported by less than conclusive evidence.
The current rule requires "significant scientific consensus" before a claim can be made. The proposed rule, effective September 1, 2003, will permit characterization of health claims using a hierarchy of degrees of certainty:
- A: "There is significant scientific agreement for [the claim]"
- B: "Although there is some scientific evidence supporting [the claim], the evidence is not conclusive."
- C: "Some scientific evidence suggests [the claim]. However, the F.D.A. has determined that this evidence is limited and not conclusive."
- D: "Very limited and preliminary scientific research suggests [the claim]. The F.D.A. concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim."
The proposal is being criticized as opening the door to ill-founded claims. Advocates believe it will make more information available to the public.
In the United Kingdom, the law requires that any health claim on food labels must be true and not misleading. Food producers may optionally use the Joint Health Claims Inititiative to determine whether their claims are likely to be legally sustainable.