Health claims regulated by FSSAI, but consumers must check claims with ingredients: ICMR

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Although nutrition and health claims are regulated by FSSAI, consumers are advised to exercise caution by cross-checking the claims with ingredients and nutrition information on the label, the ICMR has recommended in dietary guidelines.

According to the guidelines, manufacturers also use labels to make incorrect and incomplete claims about their food products. There is a general misconception that ‘nutrition facts’ and ‘nutrition/nutrient claims’ are the same.

Nutrition claims refers to any statement which suggests or implies that a food has particular nutritional properties.

Claims like ‘low calorie’, ‘high fibre’, ‘low fat’ or ‘low sodium’ is not complete information. These have to be substantiated by providing the actual values or nutritional facts about the product.

The guidelines also recommended the ‘date of manufacture’ and ‘use-by ate’ indicates that the product’s quality and safety could deteriorate and consumption beyond that date would increase the risk of food poisoning.

In the label, under the words ‘nutrition facts, there is a statement on the ‘serving size’. This is one of the most important pieces of information on the label because all of the nutrition information shown is based on the referred serving size, the guidelines stated.

The serving size could be described in a few different ways in the label and depends on the food item being referred to. The most common measures are grams, cups, scoops and pieces. Grams tend to be listed most of the time even when the serving size may also be listed in a different way.

The guidelines also asked people to check the net weight of the packet. This is the total amount of product contained in the packet. The nutrition facts label information is generally based on one serving per 100g/100ml, but many packages may contain more than one serving

or more than 100g or 100ml.

“Check how many servings per ml/g is being used against the number of serving unit used for presenting nutrition facts. According to the amount of food item being used, assess calories and other nutrients in the portion being used,” it said.

The Dietary Guidelines for Indians (DGIs) has been drafted by a multi-disciplinary committee of experts led by Dr Hemalatha R, Director, ICMR-NIN and has undergone several scientific reviews.