Publication Details

This article was originally published as: Williams, PG, Can Health Claims for Foods Help Consumers Choose Better Diets?, Current Medical Literature: Clinical Nutrition, 2006, 15(2), 25-30. The original journal can be found here at the Current Medical Literature website.


Consumers are becoming health-conscious and most agree that eating healthily is a better way to manage illness than using medication. This has led to the increased acceptance and consumption of functional foods with health-promoting capabilities, demonstrated by impressive growth in sales world wide. Functional foods certainly have the potential to assist in disease management or reduction of risk and their use is being increasingly recommended in both medical and dietetic practice. There is an observed ‘push’ from food companies seeking out new markets and profit opportunities, with a concurrent market ‘pull’ from an educated, health-conscious consumer with a higher disposable income. However consumer attitudes to health claims for foods need to be understood if the promise of functional food to improve health is to be realised. One their own, health claims on foods are unlikely to have any significant impact on eating behaviour. The potential barriers are many, including lack of awareness or notice of the claims, misunderstanding of their meaning, and lack of interest or trust in the claims. Long term behaviour change can only be achieved through a comprehensive education and marketing effort. It has been suggested that examination of successful campaigns can provide some generalisations about how to ensure that claims are effective: • Claims target a specific population segment • Claims receive significant media attention • Claims are introduced with an aggressive marketing campaign • Claims highlight quantitative health benefits • Claims relate to personally relevant health problems.