Public Health Nutrition

Social, economic, political and environmental determinants

A study of nutrition and health claims – a snapshot of what’s on the Irish market

Fiona Lalora1 c1, Jean Kennedya1, Mary AT Flynna2 and Patrick G Walla1

a1 School of Public Health and Population Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

a2 Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Abstract

Objective To examine the use of nutrition and health claims on packaged foods commonly eaten in Ireland.

Design An assessment of the labels of packaged food products that are commonly eaten in Ireland to determine the level of use of nutrition and health claims. Where present, the exact text of the claims as observed was recorded for seventeen different food categories and the claims categorised in accordance with EU Regulation 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods.

Setting Four retailers in Dublin, Ireland.

Results Of the foods surveyed, 47·3 % carried a nutrition claim and 17·8 % carried a health claim. Frozen fruit & vegetables and Breakfast cereals were the food categories with the highest proportion of nutrition claims. The most widespread nutrition claim was that referring to ‘fat’ and, within this group, the most commonly used text was ‘low fat’. The largest category of health claims observed in the present survey was general health claims. Claims referring to the digestive system were the most common followed by claims that a product will ‘lower/reduce/regulate your cholesterol’. Yoghurt & yoghurt drinks was the food category with the highest proportion of health claims, of which improving or boosting the digestive system was the most common.

Conclusions The use of nutrition and health claims on the Irish market is widespread. EU Regulation 1924/2006 requires monitoring of the market for these types of claims. The current study could provide baseline data for the food industry and regulators to monitor the development of this market in the future.

(Received March 10 2009)

(Accepted August 21 2009)

(Online publication September 28 2009)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email Fiona.lalor@ucd.ie

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