Labeling Lingo (Part 1): Health Claims

A quick trip to the grocery store can leave your head spinning.  Food labels shout their benefits at consumers.  But what does it all mean?

I’m sure you’ve all seen products that look like this:

“Reduced Sodium,” “Heart Healthy,” and “May Help Lower Cholesterol”
Man, it seems like this can of soup has got something in there for just about everybody!

Let’s break it down.

There are two types of labels, a Nutrient Claim and a Structure/Function Claim.

Nutrient Claims
Establishes the quantity of a particular ingredient, such as fat, cholesterol and fiber.
Examples)  “Low Sodium” or “Fat Free”
Nutrient Claims must meet FDA requirements.
(more on that in our next installment) 
Structure/Function Claims
Describes the role of a nutrient or substance in a food affecting the normal structure or function in the body.
Examples) Improve,” “Boost,” or “Lower”

Structure/Function Claims require no FDA pre-certification.  Be Wary!  It can be attached to any food and phrased in a multitude of ways.  PLUS, there is no specification on how much evidence is required to make a structure/function claim.

So, taking a look at our can of soup, we see that there’s a combination of two different types of claims.

“Reduced Sodium” and “Heart Healthy” are FDA approved, which means they have specific nutritional values they must meet.

“May Help Lower Cholesterol” is a structure/function claim.  See how cautiously they have worded this?  It may help OR it may not.  Tricky, aren’t they?

Can you find items boasting their health claims in your cupboards?
Next Up: FDA Approved Labels and What They Mean

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