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Consumers view nutrition and health claims differently than regulators

March 28, 2019
University of Surrey
Consumers may not consciously differentiate nutrition and health claims on foods in the way that regulatory experts do, new research reports.

During this unique study an international team of researchers led by the University of Surrey investigated whether consumers in the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands were able to differentiate between the various health and nutrition claims on food items that are required by EU regulation.

Regulations, such as the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation EC No 1924/2006, seek to eliminate unsubstantiated and potentially misleading claims from about foods and provide an appropriate level of consumer protection. This regulation differentiates between nutrition claims (i.e. a claim that states that a food contains a particular element) and health claims (i.e. claims implying a health benefit of consuming a food).

The level of evidence needed to support a health claim is more extensive as it needs to substantiate that the health benefit exists. However, there is doubt as to whether consumers make a distinction between these two types of claims.

Results show that consumers may not consciously differentiate between a nutrition claim and a health claim in the way that regulatory experts do. Researchers found that consumers' pre-determined beliefs about nutrients and their relationship with health outcomes are key drivers in the way they interpret and understand claims. When nutrients in the claim are familiar and personally relevant to the consumer there is the potential for them to 'upgrade' the nutrition claims to health claims simply based on their previous knowledge.

Researchers believe that regulators need to consider making information available to ensure consumers' knowledge and beliefs are correct and well-informed so they can understand and respond appropriately to claims in the marketplace.

Professor Monique Raats, Director of the Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre at the University of Surrey, who led the research, said: "Labelling food products with health claims could help people make better food choices but what we have found is that they don't always interpret claims in the way we assume they do. It is important that consumer perspectives are taken into consideration when developing policy."

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Surrey. Original written by Natasha Meredith. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Charo Hodgkins, Bernadette Egan, Matthew Peacock, Naomi Klepacz, Krista Miklavec, Igor Pravst, Jure Pohar, Azucena Gracia, Andrea Groeppel-Klein, Mike Rayner, Monique Raats. Understanding How Consumers Categorise Health Related Claims on Foods: A Consumer-Derived Typology of Health-Related Claims. Nutrients, 2019; 11 (3): 539 DOI: 10.3390/nu11030539

Cite This Page:

University of Surrey. "Consumers view nutrition and health claims differently than regulators." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2019. <>.
University of Surrey. (2019, March 28). Consumers view nutrition and health claims differently than regulators. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 9, 2023 from
University of Surrey. "Consumers view nutrition and health claims differently than regulators." ScienceDaily. (accessed December 9, 2023).

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