“Let food be your medicine” is a common mantra recited by those in the food business. In Thailand, many food products are fortified with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and are marketed as offering a range of health benefits.
Food businesses typically use nutrition claims to show consumers the health benefits of food products. Nutrition claims are displayed on nutrition labels, which are now widely used on food packaging in Thailand. They are considered part of nutrition labels, and are classified into one of three categories: nutrient content claims, comparative claims or nutrient function claims.
Nutrition claims are optional to include, but in order to make a nutrition claim, a number of requirements must be met under Thailand’s Food Act and various Ministerial Notifications. The requirements vary, depending on which category the nutrition claim falls in.
The requirements of each category are as follows:
Nutrient content claims. These content-based requirements involve claims of nutrient or energy levels in food, such as sources of calcium, fiber and fat. Claims of “free” or “low” are not allowed if the food or natural content has certain conditions (e.g., it is prohibited to claim that drinking water is “free of energy” or “low fat”).
Comparative claims. These are comparisons of the quantity of nutrients or energy between two kinds of foods (e.g., claims including “less than,” “reduced,” “light” and “fortified”). It is prohibited to make a comparative claim if the referenced foods have low condition nutrient levels, and comparative claims such as “the best,” “the most,” “the first,” etc., are not permitted, as the Thai Food and Drug Administration considers these claims difficult to prove.
Nutrient function claims. These claims focus on the function that a nutrient has on the human body. In Thailand, there are 29 statements of claims that can be declared on nutrient labels (e.g., “Vitamin B12 aids in the function of nerves and the brain system”).
Food regulations, particularly on labels, are becoming more dynamic and self-regulated. More self-regulation means food companies should have their labels carefully reviewed by legal counsel with proper technical and legislative knowledge in order to fully comply with the laws.