Do claims of better health on food improve diet?

Encouraging consumers buy healthier food products to improve diet!

Food industry uses health claims and symbols on food packages to help inform consumers to make a healthy choice, but do these work?
 CLYMBOL (Role of health-related claims and symbols in consumer behaviour), a project, funded by the European Commission has researched the influence of health claims and symbols.

Consumers’ trust is influenced by their attitude and understanding of nutrition and health claims.

Many trust claims about food products if:

they are familiar with the nutrient or substance within the claim, e.g. ‘Calcium maintains normal bones’, and the claim is relevant to their personal situation.

Claims with:

  • lots information were not always read and
  • claims using scientific terms were often not fully understood.

Most people seem to prefer short, understandable claims. According to the CLYMBOL project which  came to this conclusion analysing a set of qualitative studies used to

  • gain in-depth understanding of people’s behaviour and
  • why and how they make their decisions.

    CLYMBOL also looked at how often claims are used in Europe:
  • one quarter (26%) of all products carried at least one claim.
  • Most of these claims were nutrition claims (64%),
  • followed by health claims (29%) and only
  • 6% health-related ingredient claims (see explanation below).Most products had more than one claim on packages.
  • Often, several nutrition claims were listed, e.g. ‘No sugar, low calories’. Also,
  • Health claims were often accompanied by related nutrition claims, e.g. ‘High in calcium’ and ‘Calcium is needed for the maintenance of normal bones’.

Researchers sampled more than 2000 products in 5 countries – Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and the UK, a first cross-country study to analyse and compare the status-quo of claims on food and drink products in Europe.

Nutritional claims: state, suggest or imply that a food has particular nutritional properties, e.g. ‘reduced fat’

Health claims:
stated suggest or implied a connection between an ingredient and health, e.g. ‘contains calcium which is necessary for bone growth’

Health-related ingredient claim: referred to substances in food products that are not nutrients but may have a nutritional or physiological effect, e.g. ‘contains one of your five a day’ ….more

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