NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Brand marketers need to be judicious about ingredient claims.
That's the advice of Ralph Shapiro, president of Nutrition International, a consulting firm. He spoke about the effect of the National Labeling and Education Act, set to become law May 8, at a symposium here sponsored by the Center for Professional Advancement. He explained that nutrient content claims are "expressed" or "implied" claims about the level of a nutrient in a food product. "An expressed claim is a direct statement about the level or range of a nutrient in the food -- that is, low, free or high," he said. "An implied claim describes a food or ingredient in a manner that suggests the presence, or absence, of a nutrient in a certain amount. A combined implied-expressed claim is one that suggests that because of its nutrient content, a food may be useful in promoting good health," he said. However, a health claim, he said, is a statement, endorsement or symbol that characterizes the relationship of a substance to a disease or health-related condition. Currently, only six health claims can be made -- those involving: calcium and osteoporosis; sodium and hypertension; saturated fat and cholesterol and heart disease: fat and cancer; fiber-containing grain products, fruits and vegetables and coronary heart disease; and fruits and vegetables and cancer.
There are two kinds of nutrient declarations, according to Shapiro: mandatory and voluntary. Mandatory nutrient declarations cover calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. "Thiamine, riboflavin and niacin are no longer required, but if it's a marketing benefit, label them," said Shapiro. Voluntary nutrient declarations cover calories from saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, potassium, soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, sugar alcohols, other carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals for which there is an established Required Daily Intake.