In the guide
- General rules for all nutrition and health claims
- Significant amounts
- General prohibitions for health and nutrition claims
- Nutrition claims
- Health claims
- Nutrition / health claims in fancy names, trade marks and brand names
- Commercial communications
- Health claims on food for sale in the EU and Northern Ireland
- Trading Standards
- In this update
- Key legislation
Although the United Kingdom has left the European Union (EU), certain pieces of legislation (formally known as 'retained EU law') will still apply until such time as they are replaced by new UK legislation; this means that you will still see references to EU regulations in our guidance.
To fully understand this guidance, it is important to note the difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain:
- UK: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
- GB: England, Scotland and Wales
This guidance is for England and Wales
This guidance relates to prepacked food, food that is prepacked for direct sale, non-prepacked food (food sold loose etc), and food sold from catering establishments (cafés, restaurants, etc). It also applies to other types of food information, such as advertisements, websites and verbal statements (referred to as commercial communications).
The Food Information Regulations 2014 require that food information (including labelling) is accurate and not misleading.
The Nutrition and Health Claims (England) Regulations 2007 and the Nutrition and Health Claims (Wales) Regulations 2007 lay down rules for making nutrition and health claims.
A claim is any food information, message or communication that is not required by law and states, suggests or implies that food has certain characteristics. For example, a nutrition declaration that states the amount of protein in the food is not a 'claim' because a nutrition declaration is required by legislation; however, the statement 'A good source of protein' is a 'claim' because it is not required by legislation.
The definition of 'claim' includes both written and spoken information, and includes pictures, graphics and symbols.
There are three types of claims made on foods: general claims, nutrition claims and health claims.
General claims do not relate to nutrition or health and include all other statements made on food information - for example, 'Made with 100% renewable energy'.
There are no specific rules for general claims such as these; however, every statement that appears on your product and in any commercial communication that relates to your product (websites, promotional material, etc) must be true. If it is not, the food information will be considered misleading, which is a criminal offence.
Before making a claim, you should check to make sure that the information is accurate and, ideally, have some evidence to back up the claim should it ever be challenged.Back to top
General rules for all nutrition and health claims
All nutrition and health claims must follow these general rules, as well as any claim-specific rules.
1. The claim (presence, reduced, etc) being made about the energy, nutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat, fibre, sodium, vitamins and minerals) or other substance must have been shown to have a beneficial nutritional or psychological effect.
In other words, the substance must have been scientifically proven to be good for the body or the mind.
2. The substance for which the claim is being made is:
- present in a significant amount (see below) or, if no significant amount has been set, present in a large enough quantity for the person eating the food to get the benefit being claimed
- not present or present in a sufficiently reduced quantity for the person eating the food to get the benefit being claimed
3. The substance for which the claim is being made must be present in the food in a format that can be used by the body.
Therefore, if the substance goes straight through the body without being absorbed you can't make the claim.
4. The amount of food that can reasonably be expected to be consumed provides a significant amount or, if no significant amount has been set, enough for the person eating the food to get the benefit being claimed.
5. The claim can only be made if the average consumer can be expected to understand it.
6. The claim must refer to the product once it is ready to eat in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. For example, you could not make a fat-free claim on a powdered drink if the instructions specify that it should be made with full fat or semi-skimmed milk.Back to top
A sufficiently large amount of a substance to provide a beneficial effect from eating it is referred to as a 'significant amount'.
The amounts of certain nutrients that must be consumed daily to maintain a healthy body are given in Annex XIII to Regulation (EC) 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers and reproduced in the table below. These amounts are referred to as the daily reference intake (RI). The RI is given in either milligrams (mg) or micrograms (μg).
|Vitamin / mineral||Reference intake (RI) / nutrient reference value (NRV)|
|Vitamin A (μg)||800|
|Vitamin D (μg)||5|
|Vitamin E (mg)||12|
|Vitamin K (μg)||75|
|Vitamin C (mg)||80|
|Vitamin B6 (mg)||1.4|
|Folic acid (μg)||200|
|Vitamin B12 (μg)||2.5|
|Pantothenic acid (mg)||6|
A significant amount is:
- 15% of the RI per 100 g / 100 ml of product consumed (for foods other than beverages)
- 7.5% of the RI per 100 ml of product consumed (for beverages)
Whether the product contains a significant amount depends on how much of the substance is in the portion of the food being consumed. Therefore, if the product:
- contains multiple portions, each must provide a significant amount
- is a single portion, the entire product must provide a significant amount
General prohibitions for health and nutrition claims
Nutrition and health claims cannot be made if they:
- are false, ambiguous or misleading
- cause consumers to doubt the safety or the nutritional adequacy of other foods
- encourage people to eat excessive amounts of food or suggest that it is okay to do so
- state, suggest or imply that a balanced diet cannot provide sufficient nutrition
- refer to any change in bodily functions that could cause or exploit fear in consumers
Any beverage with an alcohol content greater than 1.2% cannot bear health claims and can only bear nutrition claims that relate to reduced alcohol or reduced energy.Back to top
A nutrition claim is any claim that states, suggests or implies that a food has beneficial nutritional properties due to the energy, nutrients or other substances that it either:
- contains or does not contain
- contains in an increased or reduced amount
'Nutrient' includes protein, carbohydrate, fat, fibre, sodium, vitamins and minerals.
Making any nutritional claim triggers the requirement to provide a full nutritional declaration, even if the product would normally be exempt from needing one (prepacked products only).
Full information on nutrition declarations can be found in 'Labelling of prepacked foods: nutrition declaration'.
Only certain nutrients can be included in the nutrition declaration. If the substance to which the claim relates cannot be included in the nutrition declaration, you must:
- make a nutrition declaration as normal
- state the amount per 100 g / 100 ml of the substance in the same field of vision as the nutrition declaration (same field of vision means that the product can be held so that both pieces of information can be seen at the same time)
Only certain nutritional claims can be made and there are conditions that must be met before they can be made; these usually specify how much of the substance must be provided. Full details can be found in the attached 'Permitted nutrition claims' document.
Comparative nutrition claims
Comparative nutrition claims are those that compare a property of one product to the same property of another product - for example, 'Contains half the sugar of similar products'.
Comparative claims are subject to the following rules:
- the product can only be compared to products in the same category of foods (for example, you couldn't compare the amount of calcium in a pint of milk to that in a chocolate bar)
- the comparison must be against a range of foods rather than a single competing product
- you can make comparisons to your own product (for example, '30% less salt than our standard beans') but you must also consider the composition of similar products to ensure your comparison is fair
- the products you are comparing against must not be able to satisfy the claim you are making on the product (for example, if you are making a 'source of zinc' claim on your product and stating 'X% more zinc than similar products' then none of the products you compared against should be able to satisfy a source of zinc claim - that is to say, they must provide less than 15% of the RI for zinc per portion consumed)
- the difference in the amounts of the substance must be stated
- all comparisons must be based on the same amount of food
A health claim is any claim that states, suggests or implies that there is a relationship between health and a food, a type of food or something in a food.
Making any health claim triggers the requirement to provide a full nutritional declaration, even if the product would normally be exempt from needing one (prepacked products only).
Full information on nutrition declarations can be found in 'Labelling of prepacked foods: nutrition declaration'.
Only certain nutrients can be included in the nutrition declaration; if the substance to which the claim relates cannot be included in the nutrition declaration, you must:
- make a nutrition declaration as normal
- state the amount per 100 g of the substance in the same field of vision as the nutrition declaration
Prohibited health claims
The following health claims cannot be made:
- claims that suggest that health could be affected by not consuming the food
- claims that refer to the rate or amount of weight loss, including:
- statements (for example, 'Lose two stone in two weeks')
- 'before and after' pictures
- testimonials used in commercial communications (see below)
- claims that refer to recommendations of individual doctors or health professionals and other associations
Types of health claim
There are two types of health claim:
- general non-specific
General non-specific health claims
These are claims that say nothing specific but state, suggest or imply in general terms that consuming the product will provide health benefits.
- good for you
- sense of wellbeing
General non-specific (GNS) health claims are permitted; however, if a GNS is used you must also include a specific health claim on the product (which will trigger the labelling requirements for specific health claims below).
The specific health claim used must be appropriate to the product; therefore the specific claim would need to relate to a substance that is in the product and present in a sufficient quantity to provide the beneficial effect (as per the general rules above).
An example of a general non-specific health claim supported by a specific authorised claim might be:
'X Energy - soar like an eagle'
'X Energy contains vitamins B6 and B12. B-group vitamins are essential micronutrients that are required for maintaining normal body functions.'
Specific health claims
These claims link a nutrient to a specific health benefit - for example: 'Calcium contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism'.
All claims need to be authorised before they can be used and claims will only be authorised if the applicant has provided enough scientific evidence to prove that there is a link between the substance and the health benefit being claimed.
You may only use authorised claims (the Great Britain nutrition and health claims (NHC) register can be found on the GOV.UK website). Once a claim is authorised it can usually be used by anyone, not just the person who made the application.
Claims that have been authorised on the basis of proprietary data are listed in a separate annex (see link above). 'Proprietary data' (PD) is technical data that is considered a trade secret and has been developed at private expense. Claims that have been approved on the basis of PD can only be made by the business named in the entry for five years from the date of authorisation, after which time they can be used by anyone.
Most authorised claims relate to vitamins and minerals; there are very few authorised claims relating to other substances. Examples of rejected claims include the antioxidant properties of green tea and lowered cholesterol from eating soy protein.
Applications for authorisation of new health claims on goods to be sold on the GB market must be made to the UK Nutrition and Health Claims Committee (UKNHCC) by completing an application form for substantiation of a health claim in GB.
Applications for authorisation of new health claims on goods to be sold on the Northern Ireland (NI) or EU markets must be submitted for consideration by the European Commission. Please contact your local Trading Standards service for further advice.
Specific claims follow the general rules above; you cannot make the claim unless the substance is present in your product and in a suitably large amount to generate the claimed benefit.
Additionally, each claim has specific conditions that must be met; these can be found on the list of authorised health claims - for example, 'Vitamin C contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue'. This claim can only be made if the amount of vitamin C in the portion consumed is at least a 'source' as explained in the 'Permitted nutrition claims' document attached above.
Wording of authorised claims
Each claim has specific wording (specified in the list of authorised claims). You are not required to use the specific wording and may make small alterations; however, you are not allowed to make a statement that is any stronger than the specified wording, or one that alters the meaning of the authorised claim.
- 'Zinc contributes to normal cognitive function' is the authorised claim
- 'Zinc helps your brain to work normally' would be permitted alternative wording because it means the same as the authorised wording
- 'Zinc supercharges your brain' would not be permitted because it is a much stronger statement than the approved wording
Multiple active substances
Some claims list multiple active substances. Where this is the case, the authorised claim can only be used if all active substances are present in the product in the amounts specified and subject to the conditions laid out in the list.
- substance: alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid essential fatty acids
- authorised claim: 'Essential fatty acids are needed for normal growth and development of children'
The claim can only be used if the daily intake of the product provides at least 2 g of alpha-linolenic acid and at least 10 g of linoleic acid.
Health claims labelling
When using a specific health claim the product must also bear the following labelling:
- a statement indicating the importance of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle
- the quantity of the food and pattern of consumption required to obtain the claimed beneficial effect - for example, 'One capsule per day with food'
- where appropriate, a statement addressed to persons who should avoid using the food - for example, energy drinks bearing the statement 'Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women'
- an appropriate warning for products that are likely to present a health risk if consumed to excess - for example, 'Excessive consumption may produce laxative effects'
Nutrition / health claims in fancy names, trade marks and brand names
'Fancy name' means a name that gives no explanation of what the product is - for example, 'Coke'. It must be supplemented by a name that accurately describes the food, usually on the reverse of the product - for example, 'Sparkling soft drink with plant extracts'.
'Trade mark' means a word, image, phrase, etc that has been registered with the Intellectual Property Office for the sole use of the trade mark holder - for example, 'Pepsi'.
'Brand name' means a name given to a product or range of products by the manufacturer - for example, 'Daily Health - Pure Green Tea'. In this example, 'Daily Health' is a GNS health claim as it is suggesting a link between health and consuming the product.
Fancy names, trade marks and brand names can include both GNS and specific health claims. Any specific health claims used in a fancy name, trade mark or brand name do not have to be authorised for use in either GB or the EU.
If a fancy name, trade mark or brand name includes any type of health claim, then an appropriate authorised specific claim must also appear on the product following the same rules as outlined above (see 'Specific health claims' and 'Wording of authorised claims'). This includes having labelling that is appropriate to the claim being made in the name.
If a fancy name, trade mark or brand name includes any type of nutrition claim, then an appropriate permitted nutrition claim must appear on the product following the same rules as outlined above (including labelling).
Use of a nutrition or health claim in a fancy name, trade mark or brand name triggers the requirement to provide a nutrition declaration as outlined above.
Where a nutrition or health claim appears in a fancy name, trade mark or brand name that appears elsewhere than on the product (for example, in advertisements etc), then a permitted nutrition claim / authorised health claim must appear in the same medium in which the fancy name, trade mark or brand name is being used.
Food that included nutrition or health claims in fancy names, trade marks or brand names that were placed on the market before 2005 did not have to comply with the above requirements due to a 'derogation' in the legislation; this derogation expired on 19 January 2022. If your product was on the market before 2005, contains nutrition or health claims in the fancy name, brand name or trademark, and does not comply with the above requirements, you will need to do one of the following:
- remove the nutrition or health claim from the fancy name, trade mark or brand name
- include an authorised specific health claim on the labelling, advertising, etc that can be satisfied by the product
- include a permitted nutrition claim on the labelling, advertising, etc that can be satisfied by the product
There are no provisions for non-compliant products already on the market to be sold through; non-compliant products must be removed from sale immediately.Back to top
Food information is much broader than food labels and includes everything that is said about a product in a commercial context (for the purposes of selling or promoting the sale of the product).
- social media posts made by the business
- social media posts made by others and re-published or linked to in some way by the business
- printed adverts (magazines, posters, etc)
- radio and television adverts
- paid 'advertorials' (where someone is employed to write a review and in doing so makes claims about the product). 'Paid' includes consideration by other means (free product etc)
Where a nutrition claim is made in a commercial communication it will trigger the need for a nutrition declaration, which must appear in the commercial communication.
Where the commercial communication is not in a printed form (TV, radio, etc) it will trigger the need for a nutrition declaration on the product, regardless of whether the claim appears on the product or if the product was otherwise exempt from needing a declaration. This applies to prepacked products only.
The rules are the same regardless of the form of commercial communication. Only authorised specific claims can be made and any GNS used will trigger the need to include an appropriate specific claim and mandatory labelling in close proximity to where the GNS has been made.
Where a claim made on food is borderline (in other words, arguments can be made for and against it being a health claim), any health claim made in a commercial communication will strengthen the argument that the claim on the product should be treated as a health claim because it shows a clear intention to link consumption of the product to health. This would especially apply if the product included information directing the consumer to the health claim (a web address, for example).Back to top
Health claims on food for sale in the EU and Northern Ireland
The EU operates its own register of nutrition and health claims, which differs from the GB NHC register. Where food is intended for sale in the EU, only claims authorised for use in the EU may be used; as such you should confirm the status of any claim by checking the EU Register of Health Claims.
Due to the Northern Ireland Protocol food sold in NI must comply with EU food legislation; therefore, only claims authorised by the EU Register of Health Claims may appear on food being sold in NI.Back to top
For more information on the work of Trading Standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading Standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.Back to top
In this update
No major changes.
Last reviewed / updated: September 2023Back to top
Regulation (EC) 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims
Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers