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Dietitians' and nutritionists' knowledge and views on aspects of health claims regulation in the UK: Do we inadvertently shoot the messenger?


Apr 24, 2023

Article 12(c) of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR) prohibits authorised health claims in consumer-facing commercial communications which make reference to the recommendations of individual doctors or health professionals. However, this has been controversial amongst dietitians and nutritionists who work in commercial settings. Given the lack of empirical data, a survey was conducted amongst UK-based nutrition professionals to assess their knowledge of, and attitudes to, Article 12(c). The findings revealed confusion about the scope of the regulation and how it applies to working practices, with a considerable proportion of respondents being unable to recognise examples of commercial communications or health claims, indicating a need for additional training. There was also a broad interpretation of what nutrition professionals could, and could not, say about a hypothetical food product. This paper explores current guidance in Great Britain and debates the proportionality and fairness of Article 12(c), which, at present, does not regulate authorised health claims made by influencers or celebrities in commercial communications to consumers. It could be argued that consumers are better protected by the articulation of health claims by nutrition professionals who are guided by codes of practice rather than by unqualified, unregulated individuals. Hence, it is essential to level the regulatory playing field either by revising the NHCR to amend Article 12(c) or by updating the guidance to apply an interpretation of the Article's intention which enables a broader role for nutrition professionals in commercial communications. Such action would also be consistent with the UK's better regulation agenda to ensure evidence-based, proportionate regulation for industry.

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