understanding food packaging claims

Food Claims 101

Claims: those snippets of information that try to compel us to purchase a product.  They are everywhere, from product advertising to packaging.

What is a claim?

A claim is an advertising statement that is designed to elicit a product purchase. And while claims are marketing statements, US Federal Law states that these claims must be “truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence.”1  However, there have been cases where a claim has been found to be deceptive (example), and when that happens the company marketing the product has to remove it immediately and face potential legal and financial consequences.

In the case of food, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) share jurisdiction over claims made by manufacturers of food products and there are very specific requirements that a food product must meet in order to have a food claim on its packaging.  Specific requirements for food labeling can be found in the electronic Code of Federal Regulations.2

Common food claims:

Understanding Nutrient Content Food Claims
Federal Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims from eCFR.
Understanding Food Health Claims
Federal Requirements for Health Claims from eCFR.

Summary:

At best, food claims will educate you about a product and help you make wise choices. But remember: the primary purpose of a claim is to compel you to purchase the product. To learn more, check out some of our food claims case studies where claims have been graded “informative”, “obvious” or “potentially confusing”.

Note: Just because a food claim is considered “informative”, it does not mean the food is wise.

References:

  1. Federal Trade Commission, Truth in Advertising (link)
  2. Federal Requirements for Food Labeling, electronic Code of Federal Regulations (link)
  3. Requirements for “Excellent Source” claims §101.54(b) and “Good Source” claims §101.54(c), (link)
  4. Claim requirements for sodium content of foods: Low Sodium §101.61(b)(4), (link)
  5. Requirements for “Reduced” Claims: Calorie – 25% §101.60(b)(4), (link), Sugar – 25% §101.60(c)(5), (link), Sodium – 25% §101.61(b)(6), (link), Fat – 25% §101.62(b)(4), (link)
  6. Requirements for calcium, vitamin D, and osteoporosis claims §101.72, (link)
  7. Claim requirements for dietary lipids and cancer §101.73, (link). “Low fat” and “extra lean” claim requirements are detailed in §101.62, (link)
  8. Claim requirements for fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain fiber, particularly soluble fiber, and risk of coronary heart disease. §101.77, (link)
  9. Organic Triscuit package claim
  10. Requirements for soluble fiber claims from certain foods and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) §101.81, (link)
  11. Original Cheerios package claim

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