No foods will be allowed to claim they are "good for your heart," "help lower cholesterol" or are one of the growing list of "superfoods" without scientific backing. A new European Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation went into force on July 1, 2007, to help protect consumers from misleading claims.
Previously the rules on claims have been very general, making it difficult for consumers to know what a term means and difficult for food companies (particularly smaller ones) to be sure they are not misleading the public. In future, any claims made in relation to the nutrition and health benefits of a food will only be allowed if the claims are based on science, which has been verified by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Although the regulation is already in effect, there are transition periods to give businesses enough time to comply with the new rules. Therefore it will be some time yet before we see the changes in the shops. To assist businesses, the agency has produced guidance notes on the changes.
A list of health claims that can be used on food products is being drawn up by the European Commission (EC). General claims about benefits to overall good health, such as "healthy" or "good for you," won’t be listed, but in future can only be used if accompanied by an appropriate claim from the approved list. This means that more general claims will be backed up by an explanation as to why the food is "healthy" or what makes it a "superfood."