Justification of Food Supplement Claims: Ensuring Credibility and Consumer Trust

When we refer to food supplement claim justification, we are essentially talking about providing evidence or supporting information to substantiate the claims made about a particular food supplement. The claim justification process involves demonstrating the claimed health benefits or effects of the supplement.

Why is the justification of food supplement claims important?

Establishing the validity of claims regarding nutritional supplements is important for brands, manufacturers and consumers for various compelling reasons. It plays a crucial role in ensuring true and proper consumer information. When claims are backed by scientific evidence and regulatory guidelines, consumers can have confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the information provided by manufacturers. This should foster a trusting relationship between consumers and manufacturers, as people can feel secure in the knowledge that the claims made on their chosen food supplements are neither false nor misleading.

Furthermore, rigorous food supplement claim justification is of vital importance in maintaining the credibility and integrity of the industry as a whole. When consumers trust the claims listed on their food supplements, they are more likely to carry on buying these products. This continued trust from the consumer contributes to the growth and sustainability of the food supplement industry. Without proper justification, the lack of consumer confidence could potentially lead to a decline in sales and a negative impact on this industry.

Consumer Protection:

Justifying food supplement claims is essential for protecting consumers from false or misleading information. Consumers rely on these claims to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. If claims are not backed by scientific evidence or regulatory guidelines, consumers may be misled into purchasing and using supplements that do not provide the promised benefits or may even, in some cases, be harmful if these products are not properly used.

Confidence and Trust:

The knowledge that food supplement claims are justified enhances consumer confidence and trust in the supplement industry. When manufacturers can provide evidence supporting their claims, it demonstrates a commitment to transparency and integrity. People are more likely to trust and rely on products that have undergone rigorous evaluation and are supported by scientific evidence.

Informed Decision-making:

Justified claims enable consumers to make informed decisions about their supplement usage. By having access to accurate information, they can weigh the potential benefits of using a particular supplement. This enables consumers to select supplements that are in line with their health goals and make their choices based on reliable evidence rather than marketing hype.

Regulation and Compliance:

Regulatory bodies establish guidelines and regulations to ensure the safety and accuracy of food supplement claims. Indeed, misleading claims may lead to improper use of the product and finally rise health concern. The justification of claims helps manufacturers comply with these regulations and avoid misleading advertising practices. This promotes a level playing field and helps maintain the integrity of the supplement industry.

Scientific advancement:

The need for justification of food supplement claims contributes to the overall advancement of scientific knowledge. Rigorous research and evaluation of supplements expand our understanding of their mechanisms of action, potential health benefits, and limitations. This information can inform future research and guide the development of evidence-based guidelines for supplement usage.

The Evolution of Food Supplement Claims

In the past, consumers were less aware of the need for justification, and claims were often taken at face value. However, as awareness about health and nutrition grew, and concerns about misleading marketing practices emerged, regulatory bodies started implementing stricter guidelines and conducting more frequent controls.

How are food supplement claims justified? (Europe)

Claims for food supplements (in Europe) fall predominantly into two categories: nutritional claims and health claims. Justifying food supplement claims of each type requires different approaches:

Nutritional Claim Justification

When it comes to justifying nutritional claims for food supplements, marketers for the European market must adhere to a crucial principle known as the positive list. This principle allows only those claims that are officially listed in the Annex of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006, or its updated versions. These claims typically involve stating the percentage of Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) provided by the supplement, providing consumers with valuable information about the nutrient content. However, the process doesn’t end there. To carry a nutritional claim, the recommended daily dose of the product, such as two gummies per day, must supply a « significant » amount of the nutrient. In the case of vitamins and minerals, this significance is defined as « at least 15% of the NRV. » An example of nutritional claim is: “rich in vitamin C”.

Such meticulous attention to detail ensures that consumers receive accurate and trustworthy information about the nutritional benefits of the supplement.

Health Claim Justification

The fundamental principle is that claims stating or suggesting that a food supplement can prevent, treat or cure a disease are absolutely prohibited. These therapeutic claims can exclusively be made on drugs. Indeed, food supplements are intended for healthy people and not for patients suffering from diseases.

Unlike nutritional claims, health claims for food supplements require a more rigorous and comprehensive approach to justify their use. Scientific evidence plays a pivotal role in supporting these claims, as marketers must provide compelling research and clinical studies that substantiate the claimed health benefits. These studies are typically conducted on healthy subjects, simulating real-life conditions experienced by consumers. Moreover, when it comes to claims related to plants, the level of proof demanded is even more rigorous, making it a challenging but essential aspect of the justification process. Additionally, within the European Union, authorized health claims are explicitly outlined in Regulation EC No. 432/2012 and its updates. Any health claims not included in this list are prohibited for use, exceptions to this can be found within a list published by EFSA detailing certain “pending claims”. Such meticulous scrutiny ensures that consumers are safeguarded from misleading or unsupported health claims, allowing them to make informed decisions about the benefits of the supplement they choose.

Some methods of justification

Scientific evidence: To establish the credibility of food supplement claims, a strong reliance on scientific evidence is essential. This entails conducting comprehensive literature reviews, clinical trials, and in-depth research to effectively demonstrate the supplement’s actual effectiveness and the tangible benefits it offers to consumers. Scientific validation forms the cornerstone of trustworthy claims, fostering consumer confidence and informed decision-making.

Cause-and-effect relationship: Health claims, in particular, necessitate a well-defined cause-and-effect relationship between the consumption of the supplement and the purported health benefit. This crucial connection must be firmly rooted in scientific substantiation, leaving no room for uncertainty. By demonstrating the direct impact of the supplement on specific health outcomes, marketers can assure consumers of the product’s genuine efficacy.

Regulatory Standards: Adherence to specific regulatory standards set by authorities governing food supplements is paramount. These standards are meticulously designed to ensure that claims are truthful, accurate, and firmly grounded in reliable data. By complying with these rigorous guidelines, marketers uphold transparency and accountability, providing consumers with legitimate and verifiable information.

Nutritional composition: Nutritional claims related to nutrient content are justified by the precise nutritional composition of the supplement. This entails rigorous laboratory testing and comprehensive analysis to validate the presence or absence of specific nutrients. The meticulous verification process provides consumers with the assurance of the supplement’s nutritional value and underscores the accuracy of the claims made.

Traditional usage and cultural beliefs: In certain cases, claims find justification in the historical or cultural usage of the supplement in traditional medicine practices. Such evidence showcases the product’s enduring significance and perceived benefits, resonating with consumers who value time-tested products and cultural wisdom, thereby fostering trust.

Consumer feedback and testimonials: Genuine consumer feedback and testimonials carry additional weight in justifying food supplement claims. Reviews, before-and-after comparisons, surveys, and testimonials offer real-world experiences, enhancing the credibility of claims by showcasing actual satisfaction and positive outcomes. These genuine expressions of consumer satisfaction empower prospective buyers to make well-informed choices.

The role of authorities in checking justification

The responsibility of checking and ensuring the justification of food supplement claims lies with regulatory authorities. In different countries, competent authorities, such as the DDPP (DGCCRF) in France, oversee the verification process. Marketers of food supplements are obligated to provide a justification file containing the supporting evidence for their claims. If they fail to do so, they may be required to remove the claims from their product labelling and marketing materials.

The justification of food supplement claims is of paramount importance in the modern consumer-driven market. Food supplement brand owners must ensure that their claims are evidence-based, not misleading, and comply with relevant regulations to build consumer trust and credibility. Additionally, by justifying claims, these companies contribute to a more informed and responsible consumer base, ultimately benefiting both the industry and the individuals seeking to enhance their health and well-being through food supplements.

Do you have more questions about the justification of food supplement claims? Check out Activ’Inside’s additional services and contact our team for their expert advice!