Health claims are the statements made about the beneficial or helpful impacts of a certain food consumed within a healthy diet on an individual's health. A health claim or nutrient claim can also be a representation in labelling or advertising that states, suggests, or implies an association between food consumption or a component in the food and an individual's health. Health Canada identifies that the foods we eat can affect our health in diverse ways. Some food labels contain statements about the beneficial effects of certain foods on an individual's health. For example, a healthy diet containing foods high in potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart disease is a health claim. On the other hand, "a healthy diet low in saturated and trans-fat may reduce the risk of heart disease"- this type of statement is an example of a health claim, which often leads to confusion in minds of consumers.
At an international level, nutrition labelling and health claims are contained in the Codex Alimentarius, a set of international standards, guidelines and related texts for food products developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program. The aim of the Codex Alimentarius is to protect consumer health and encourage fair practice in international food trade. Food makers can make health claims about certain nutrients, such as calcium, fiber, and fat, that are found naturally in foods.
Health Canada recognizes that the foods we eat can affect our health in different ways. In Canada, the claims are found on many food products. Health Canada’s regulations must be followed in food service industry. Restaurants promote their healthier menu fare using the Specific claims. There are two types of nutrition claims on foods: Nutrient content claims and health claims. These claims must also follow certain rules from Health Canada to make sure that they are consistent and not misleading. The health claims must be balanced and based on current, reliable scientific studies and must be approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Nutrient content claims- are the specific claims about a menu item's nutrient content and they explain the amount of a nutrient in a food. For example, low fat or high fiber. A good source of iron is also an example of a nutrient content claim.
Health claims- are the claims about the relationship between a nutrient or food and a disease or health condition and make the statements about the helpful effects of a certain food consumed within a healthy diet on an individual's health. For example, a dish that is low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol might be able to carry a claim about how diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. They may initially appear on the menu in simple terms, such as heart healthy.
Just because a food label has a health claim or nutrient claim does not mean that the food is healthy for you. For example, a food that is labelled as "a good source of calcium" may still be high in fat, salt, or sugar. Further information about the claim should be available on the menu or in other labeling, for example, with accompanying nutrition information that must be provided on request.
Some common examples of Health claims are such statements:
This food is a good source of calcium. Adequate intake of calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis
Development of cancer depends on many factors.
A diet low in total fat may reduce the risk of some cancers.
Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that whole grains (three servings or 48 grams per day), as part of a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus type 2.
Some examples of nutrient content claims and what they mean:
A good source of calcium means the food must have at least 15% of the recommended daily intake of calcium in it.
Contains omega-3 fats means the food must have at least 0.3 grams of omega-3 fats per serving in it.
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