Evidence for health claims: A perspective from the Australia-New Zealand region
Establishing the evidence for health claims involves reviewing the available body of scientific knowledge and linking this to statements meaningful to consumers. This requires an understanding of scientific merit as well as consumer perceptions of health messages. Food Standards Australia New Zealand sets standards for current nutrient content claims and is close to approving a proposed new framework for all forms of nutrition and health claims on foods. This article discusses this proposed health claims standard in light of the challenges health claims pose to nutrition science. It critically describes the framework for the standard, reviews issues related to substantiation of claims, and provides commentary on the proposed assessment of evidence. This spectrum of permission reflects the use of food in health promotion, disease prevention, and early disease management when therapeutic agents may not be required. The position is consistent with an understanding that food delivers nutrients and bioactive substances at levels that support the improved health of the human organism in the early stages of the health-disease spectrum. Increasing knowledge of the role of food components and its intelligent application in dietary modification can result in this strategy playing a major role in disease prevention and early disease management. The amount of evidence required to enable health claim labeling should be based on a reasonable judgment and clear understanding of the role of nutrition in health and disease.