A claim is said to be “of health” when it highlights a link between a nutrient or food and health status. These are, for example, sentences of the type “calcium is necessary for normal bones”. The products mentioning this kind of terms are nowadays legion in supermarkets, the consumers being more and more sensitive to the link between food and health. European regulations have strictly regulated these communications since 2007, establishing lists of health claims that can be used. But are the regulations in this area still well respected? No, as indicated in a report from the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF) released on June 21, 2021.
The rate of anomalies identified is 44%
The DGCCRF regularly checks the health claims appearing on thelabelingfoodstuffs, and the results of its latest survey in 2019 warn against many abuses in this domain. The survey targeted the products most likely to carry health claims: infusions, teas, chocolates, breakfast cereals, bee products, etc. And it turns out that in more than 300 establishments checked, the rate of The anomalies identified amount to 44%. However, “it is important to ensure that these messages are well founded, but also that their formulation does not have a negative impact on consumer health, especially the most vulnerable, ”she notes.
Beware of prohibited therapeutic claims
The risk is that consumers “could wrongly take the products which carry them as a substitute for therapeutic means”. The organization specifies, however, that there is a difference between so-called “physical” establishments (shops, production sites, etc.), which display an anomaly rate of 38%, and establishments selling their products on the internet, whose rate is is 69%. In total, five types of breaches were most commonly encountered, the first being the presence of therapeutic claims. Among the examples given: “To fight against anemia”, “Can be used during a cold”, “Used in the treatment of certain dermatoses”.
The second observation concerns the presence unauthorized health claims because not included on the lists of authorized claims: “Coconut aids digestion”, “Biotin contributes to the maintenance of normal nails” …
In addition, some manufacturers do not exactly comply with the wording of the authorized claims, and thus change their primary meaning. The most concrete example given concerns vitamin C : instead of the claim validated by the European authorities “vitamin C contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system”, it is possible to read the more catchy but unregulated claim “vitamin C increases the immune system”.
A phenomenon that is accentuated with COVID?
Finally, the last two failures apply to so-called “general” allegations which are not accompanied by a authorized claim (for example the terms “Superfruit” and “Detox”) and nutritional claims which do not conform to the composition of the product. If, for example, the vitamin content in the product is too low to use the“source of vitamin” claim. Given the high rate of anomalies, the Repression of Fraud announces that it will continue investigations in this sector. “Even more precise targeting will be carried out to direct the controls towards the operators likely to present the most anomalies,” concludes the organization.
Health context requires, some false claims can also now concern COVID-19 as explained by Romain Roussel, chief of staff at the DGCCRF, on the radio Europe 1. According to the latter, some professionals do not hesitate to surf health news to challenge buyers. “During confinement, we have seen a large number of fanciful allegations in connection with Covid-19 flourish on the Internet, such as: ‘allows the fight against Covid-19’ or ‘allows strengthen your immune system against Covid-19 ”, he notes. To better navigate, the DGCCRF has published a file on its website concerning health and nutritional claims which summarizes the regulatory framework applicable to these claims since 2007.