EC Targets Food Packaging Health Claims in War on Obesity

04 February 2003

Food packaging terms such as ‘low-fat’ and ‘light’ could be outlawed under new regulations being considered by the European Commission.

In a bid to clamp down on rising obesity (especially among children) and related diseases, the EC wants to prevent food manufacturers making misleading health claims about their brands.

Consumer affairs commissioner David Byrne has unveiled new rules to ensure packaging carries “scientifically based, clear and reliable information regarding both the nutrient content of foods and their associated health benefits.”

The scheme will impose European Union-wide definitions for phrases such as ‘low-fat’, ‘fat-free’ and ‘high-fibre’, while setting thresholds for the term ‘light’.

Byrne’s proposed regulations also target vague promises such as “boosts your immune system” or “helps your body resists stress”, as they could convince consumers to purchase a product that may no such thing. Also banned will be claims a food can aid weight control and references to the opinions of health experts.

The rules could go before the EC for approval by April, but under the EU’s snail-like legislative process they would still require the green light from the European Parliament and member states.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff