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Nutritional and health claims for musculoskeletal health

In this article, Peter looks at the rules behind nutritional and health claims on food packaging.
Food label stickers
© University of Liverpool/The University of Sheffield/Newcastle University

If manufacturers want to include claims on packaging about the nutritional or health benefits of foods then the claims must be based on scientific evidence, and here in the UK they are limited to claims that have been approved by the European Union.

Nutrition claims

A nutrition claim is a claim that states, suggests or implies that a food has particular beneficial nutritional properties. These might be about the energy or the nutrients contained, not contained or contained in either reduced or increased quantities or proportions.

There are also certain rules for food supplements and foods fortified with vitamins and minerals, and for meal or total diet replacements for weight control.

There are only a few nutrition claims permitted that relate to protein, vitamins and minerals for musculoskeletal health.

  • SOURCE OF PROTEIN: A claim that a food is a source of protein, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where at least 12% of the energy value of the food is provided by protein.

  • HIGH PROTEIN: A claim that a food is high in protein, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where at least 20% of the energy value of the food is provided by protein.

  • SOURCE OF VITAMIN D or SOURCE OF CALCIUM: A claim that a food is a source of vitamins and/or minerals, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains at least a significant amount as defined in the EU legislation documentation.

  • HIGH IN VITAMIN D or HIGH IN CALCIUM: A claim that a food is high in vitamins and/or minerals, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the product contains at least twice the value of vitamin D or calcium used in the ‘Source of…’ nutritional claim.

Health claims

A health claim is any statement about a relationship between food and health.

Permitted health claims for musculoskeletal health include:

  • “Calcium contributes to normal muscle function”
  • “Calcium is needed for the maintenance of normal bones”
  • “Vitamin D contributes to normal absorption/utilisation of calcium and phosphorus”
  • “Vitamin D contributes to normal blood calcium levels”

To make these health claims, the foods must be a source of calcium or vitamin D as referred to in the ‘Source of…’ nutrition claim above.

For protein and musculoskeletal health the following health claims are allowed on food packaging:

  • “Protein contributes to a growth in muscle mass”
  • “Protein contributes to the maintenance of muscle mass”
  • “Protein contributes to the maintenance of normal bones”
  • “Protein is needed for normal growth and development of bone in children”

These claims can be used only for food which is at least a source of protein as referred to in the nutritional claim ‘SOURCE OF PROTEIN’ as described above.

© University of Liverpool/The University of Sheffield/Newcastle University
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