Decisions on food advertising claims

10 August 2011

Licia Garotti, Linda Brugioni

The “0,001 cholesterol” claim

With two decisions issued on May 24, 2011 [1] , the Italian Competition Authority ascertained that the use of the advertising claims “0,001 cholesterol” or “Soy 0,001% cholesterol” on the packaging of biscuits produced by two Italian companies constitute infringement of both Article 20 and followings of the Italian Consumer Code on unfair commercial practices and the Regulation EC/1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods.

In fact, the Authority indicated that such claims are misleading with reference to the characteristics of the product and the results reasonably expected by consumers.

On a nutritional point of view, such products contains saturated fats in a higher percentage than the one foreseen by the Annex 1 of the Regulation 1924/2006 which prescribes the percentage of fats which would permit the producer to indicate the expression “without saturated fats / low saturated fats” on the packaging, whereas the possible presence (or not) of cholesterol is not relevant in order to use such expression. Any other indication which would boost some nutritional advantages constitutes a misleading claim infringing the Regulation. It should be also added that the indication of cholesterol values alone, without reference to the percentage of saturated fats infringes also the Directive 496/90 (on nutrition labeling for foodstuffs), where it is established that the possible indication of cholesterol values on the product should always be accompanied with the indication of saturated fats and the total amount of fats. In fact, no connection was proven between the low content of cholesterol in food and the control of cholesterol diseases of the individual.

Finally, the association of “cholesterol” with an extremely low percentage (“0,001%”) was consider suitable to attract consumers affected by health problems related to cholesterol hoping, mistakenly, that the consumption of the mentioned biscuits could help them in controlling the assumption of cholesterol.

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[1] 
Decisions of the Italian Competition Authority no. 22453 /2011 and no. 22462/2011.

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