Nutrition & Health: Health and Nutrition Claims
In the interest of ensuring that food labeling and advertising in Canada is truthful and not misleading, there are specific guidelines on the use of health claims and nutrition claims in Canada.
A claim that appears on a food label in reference to prevention or treatment of a disease must undergo pre-market evaluation by Health Canada and be approved for use, as listed in the Food and Drug Regulations. Since 2003, Health Canada has permitted the use of five disease risk reduction claims that can be found in section B.01.603 of the Food and Drug Regulations.
Health Canada is proposing to approve two additional health claims that relate to cereal grain foods. These are:
- a healthy diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruit and whole grain products and reduced risk of heart disease; and
- a diet rich in folate along with a daily folic acid supplement and reduced risk of having a baby with a birth defect of the brain or spinal cord
Folic acid is required to be added to enriched flour and be present in enriched white bread, according to the compositional standards for flour and white bread that appear in Section B.13 of the Food and Drug Regulations. The purpose of the folic acid addition, also a regulatory requirement in the United States, is to ensure that women of child-bearing age consume enough folate in their diet to promote complete prenatal development of the neural tube. Since the addition of folic acid to flour in Canada, the number of neural tube defects (NTDs) has decreased by more than 50%. For more information on the importance of preventing NTDs, click here www.sbhac.ca.
Additional information on these permitted and proposed risk reduction claims can be viewed at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/claims-reclam/permitted_claims-allegations_autorisees-eng.php.
Other kinds of claims are also permitted under the category of “nutrient content claims”. For example, “source” claims may appear on grain-based foods containing relatively high levels of dietary fibre. These include “source of fibre”, “high source of fibre” or “very high source of fibre”. Permitted variations of these claims and what they mean to consumers is explained clearly in the Food and Drug Regulations Section B.01.513.
What is important about permitted claims for ingredients and foods derived from cereal grains is that they recognize the important contribution grains make to good nutrition and health.