Provided that they are scientifically substantiated, nutrition and health (NH) claims linked to food products can help consumers make well-informed food choices. The new European legislation on NH claims made on foods sets out conditions for their use, establishes a system for their scientific evaluation, and will create European lists of authorised claims. An important aspect of this new legislation is that it states, in article 5.2, ‘the use of nutrition and health claims shall only be permitted if the average consumer can be expected to understand the beneficial effects expressed in the claim’.
The present review examines consumer understanding of NH claims from a consumer science perspective. It focuses on the type of data and information that could be needed to provide evidence that the average consumer adequately understands a particular NH claim. After exploring several different methodologies, it proposes a case specific approach using a stepwise procedure for assessing consumer understanding of a NH claim.