Photo source: Health Claims Unpacked: Food And Health Claims Research
Health claims regulated in EU are meant to help consumers understand healthy food they choose and guide manufactures to clearly label their packaging. Research by scientists from the “Health Claims Unpacked” project show that it is not always the case. Technology and science may help. Researchers encourage consumers to speak up by participating in an attractive online study. The initiative starts in selected countries, Poland is on the list!
Does anyone understand the health claims on food packages?
There is a growing number of conscious consumers who are looking for healthy food choices for themselves and their families. If you want to eat well and improve your health, understanding health claims on foods and drinks is a key. Under EU law, a health claim is any claim which suggests that food it’s specific ingredient has a beneficial effect on health. For example “Zinc helps protect cells from oxidative stress” or “phosphorus helps maintain healthy teeth”. The official list of permitted health claims is very long. Food and drinks manufactures understand very well, how challenging is to use the claims correctly on the packages. Consumers have it even more difficult because health claims are often written in complicated language. The focus group interview research by scientists from the University of Reading in 2019, conducted also among Polish consumers confirms that we have numerous problems with understanding of actual meaning of health claims and we do not trust these messages.
“Health claims on food packaging provide important information about how foods or drinks may affect our health. Therefore it is critical that these are presented in a way that enables us to make fully informed choices. Although there is scientific assessment of the health claims made on our food, what the claim means may not always be clear to consumers” – says Dr Sylvia Jaworska z University of Reading
The “Health Claims Unpacked” is addressing this challenge. Initiative is founded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). It is an online digital platform designed to help consumers of better understand of health claims. The site is available in 4 languages and consumers from Great Britain, Germany, France and Poland can contribute in the study. As part of the interactive fun, consumers can enjoy educational content as well simple packaging design tool. Consumers’ help expressed through participation in online activities may help in the future in creating clearer health messages on food packaging.
Clear messages support normal purchasing decisions
The aim of the project is to prepare a resource that will help policymakers, food manufacturers, retailers or markers to communicate the health benefits of food more effectively, so that consumers can make more conscious purchasing choices.
“Through the research findings of this project, we hope to find ways of helping food manufacturers to make claims on foods easier to understand, helping people to choose appropriate foods for themselves as part of a healthy diet.” – adds dr Jaworska
In the final phrase the international research team will use the knowledge gathered on the platform to launch a special “Manufacturer Module “, thanks to which producers and decision makers will be able to obtain direct access to information on consumer preferences in terms of various formulations and improve the communication of health claims.
The „Health Claims Unpacked” activity has received funding from EIT food, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, under Horizon2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The initiative will last until the end of the year, and the research team encourages as many people as possible to engage in the research in the spirit of civil science. Participation in the project consists of online activities, consisting of an educational and virtual shopping part, as well as a special section where the consumers can design simple food pack. Activities last about 15 minutes.
Take part and speak out: https://www.unpackinghealthclaims.eu/#/pl
Press release by People PR for Poland, Warsaw, November 23, 2020