How do food safety guidelines affect nutrition?

Food with a health promise

Allowed health-related statements

The EU has mainly approved advertising for vitamins and minerals. Manufacturers who add certain minimum amounts are allowed to advertise, for example, that vitamin C contributes to the normal function of the immune system or calcium is required for the maintenance of normal bones. This applies to all types of food, including dietary supplements. Most of the recognized claims, however, relate to nutrients with which the population is usually adequately supplied. The often invoked lack of our floors is a fairy tale! Consumers are unnecessarily unsettled by the claims - actually not what the EU wanted to achieve with its regulation.

Manufacturers are also allowed to point out the positive effects of rye dietary fiber on digestion. They are also allowed to say that the addition of certain fatty acids contributes to normal heart function, normal vision and normal brain function. Statements can also be made that phytosterols lower cholesterol, walnuts improve the elasticity of blood vessels and water regulates normal body temperature. Overall, however, too much is often promised.

Stricter rules and very few more specific claims apply to food for children. However, this is often undermined by saying "for the whole family" or "tastes good for young and old" somewhere on the product. This means that it is no longer purely a children's food and all permitted statements are again allowed.

Prohibited health-related statements

No evidence could be provided for many of the statements submitted. For example, the following statements have been banned since December 2012:

The flexibility of the manufacturer counteracts the legislature's intention

However, manufacturers are now making use of the long list of permitted statements differently than originally thought: In principle, everyone can advertise their products as "important for the immune system", "protects the cells" or "helps digestion" - they just need the right vitamins, Use minerals or other substances mentioned in the list in the correct amount as additives.

Other manufacturers use the positive list as an alibi function. Products for which the requested claim was rejected for the main ingredient are now additionally mixed with substances for which the desired advertising message is permitted. For example, yoghurt with "probiotic" bacteria, which as such can no longer be touted with the lure "strengthening the immune system", is simply pepped up with vitamin C and may refer to the immune system again - in connection with this vitamin. However, the manufacturer is relatively closely tied to the text specification of the EU; anything other than the approved health reference must not arise. A "strengthening of the immune system" is therefore not possible for vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin D or zinc, but only the indication "contributes to the normal function of the immune system". The ingredient specifically advertised on the front then has nothing to do with the advertised effect.

Quickly nibbled too much

Anyone who constantly resorts to fortified foods may risk an oversupply of certain micronutrients. This is by no means as unproblematic as is generally assumed. There is increasing evidence that added vitamins do more harm than good, such as excessive intake of artificial folic acid. But too much vitamin C is not unproblematic for everyone. The same goes for iron.

Important to know: To ensure that the products still contain the appropriate amount of vitamins after the best-before date has expired, more is often added than is stated on the packaging. Especially with beverages, of which more than one glass is drunk a day, the safe upper limit for the intake is quickly exceeded.

Unfortunately, there are still no maximum levels for vitamins and minerals in food in the EU - they too have been pending for more than 10 years. And the existing recommendations only apply to food supplements, which are consumed in much smaller quantities. Consumers are overwhelmed with assessing for themselves whether their own eating behavior is already leading to an oversupply or not. There is also no conclusive concept to assess how foods fortified with many different substances work and how consumers can be protected from the possible negative consequences of these nutrient cocktails.