Publication Details

This article was originally published as: Dragicevich, H, Williams, PG & Ridges, L, Survey of health claims for Australian foods made on Internet sites, Nutrition & Dietetics, 2006, 63(3), 139-147. The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com. Nutrition & Dietetics is the official journal of the Dietitians Association of Australia. Copyright 2006 Blackwell Publishing.


Aim: Australia and New Zealand are currently preparing a new food standard code, which will allow the use of health claims on food products and in associated advertising. The aim of this study was to obtain preliminary information about the current use of health claims on the Internet and the level of compliance of these claims with existing regulations. Methods: From August to October 2005 a survey was conducted of 1068 websites associated with the top 20 food processing companies in Australia, and an additional 683 websites for food products found to carry health claims in previous studies of product labels and magazine advertisements. The results were compared with those from a 2003 survey of health claims on the labels of 7850 products. Results: The survey found that 14.5% of food product websites carried a health claim, and 40.7% and 37.0% of products previously identified as carrying claims on product labels or in magazines respectively, had Internet claims. 21.4% of claims were located directly on the food product web page, but the majority (78.6%) were on associated links within the manufacturer’s website. Many of the claims (19.7%) were high level or therapeutic claims not permitted by current food standards. Conclusions: Health claims are not being made more frequently on websites compared to product labels, but there is a greater prevalence of high level and therapeutic claims made on the Internet. In future food standards enforcement will need to give greater priority to monitoring the use of health claims on the Internet.



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