Health claims on food labels
General health claims
General health claims are broad claims that promote health through healthy eating or that provide dietary guidance. These claims do not refer to a specific or general health effect, disease, or health condition.
Conditions of use for general health claims
General health claims are permitted on foods when the message being transmitted is in line with the dietary recommendations outlined in Canada's Food Guide.
No Drug Representations for General Health Claims
General health claims may not refer to the treatment, prevention or cure of a Schedule A disease; or claim to treat, mitigate, or prevent a disease, disorder or physical state; or claim to correct, restore or modify an organic function [3(1) and 3(2), FDA]. Such claims are considered to be drug claims (see Drugs vs. Foods).
General health claims are founded on broad food principles; therefore they can often be mistaken or associated with educational material. For more information on educational material refer to Educational Material versus Advertising Material.
Third-Party Endorsements, Logos and Heart Symbols
General health claims are often used in conjunction with trademarks or logos, for example, heart symbols. For information on third-party endorsements, logos and heart symbols, refer to Pictures, Vignettes, Logos and Trade Marks.
Use of the terms "nutritious" and "healthy"
The word "nutritious" can be used on a food that contains at least a "source" of one nutrient permitted in the Nutrition Facts table. For more information on "source claims" please refer to How to Use the Claims Tables and Summary Table of Vitamin and Mineral Claims. See Nutrient Function Claims (definition) for the definition of a nutrient.
The word "healthy" refers to the healthy eating patterns recommended by Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide. The use of the word "healthy" on a food that does not meet the recommendations of Canada's Food Guide could be misleading.
It is important to note that the use of the word "nutritious" or "healthy" on foods that are normally exempt from declaring a Nutrition Facts table cause a loss of exemption (see Reasons for Losing the Exemption) [B.01.401 (3)(e)(ii), FDR].
The use of these terms in reference to bulk foods does not trigger any additional information to be declared.
Weight loss claims vs. weight maintenance claims
As obesity is included in Schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act, foods may not be advertised as a treatment, preventative or cure for this condition.
The only foods allowed to be advertised for use in weight reduction diets are meal replacements, prepackaged meals, foods sold by a weight reduction clinic and foods represented for use in very low energy diets as described under Division 24, FDR [B.24.003, FDR]. See Foods for Special Dietary Use for information on these foods.
There is a distinction between weight loss or reduction claims and weight maintenance claims. Some foods may be represented for use in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Industry can avoid creating a misleading or erroneous impression when making claims about weight maintenance by adhering to the following five conditions;
- The principal display panel of the label of the food and any advertisements for the food carries the statement, "As part of healthy eating, this food may assist in maintaining a healthy body weight because it is... (e.g., "lower in energy than...", "low in fat", "portion controlled", etc.).
- The label displays the Nutrition Facts table (see Nutrition Labelling for the general requirements for declaring the Nutrition Facts table).
- Labels or advertisements may make reference to the statements from Health Canada's Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide, see Health Canada's webpage on General Principles for the Use of Content from Canada's Food Guide Resources in Labelling and Advertising for the use of statements.
- The label, packaging or advertisements do not give the impression that the food is for use in a weight-reduction diet. Requirements regarding foods represented for use in a weight-reduction diet are set out in Division 24, FDR and summarized in Foods for Special Dietary Use.
- Brand and trade names traditionally considered as claims for weight reduction are qualified with the statement "for weight maintenance" next to the brand or trade name on the principal display panel.
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