Concern over unsubstantiated health claims

The Cancer Council and National Heart Foundation have joined a group of twelve organisations which are urging Australia’s governments to protect consumers from unproven health claims on their food.

Australian government ministers gathered on July 20 to determine whether consumers are at risk of being misled by foods carrying unsubstantiated claims of health benefits.

Ahead of the meeting there was significant concern that it could result in food companies being able to market new products with health benefits which are unproven by independent research.

Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, stated that ‘when consumers purchase products that claim, for example, to boost your immune system or be good for your bones, buyers have a right to assume that such claims have been independently verified’, but he said that following aggressive lobbying from food companies there is now talk of letting companies substantiate their own claims.

Professor Olver urged governments to ‘put the health of consumers first, by endorsing a system that requires the independent food regulator to scrutinise any new health claims’.

Professor Olver, along with the CEO of the National Heart Foundation, Dr. Lyn Roberts, stated concern over the current surges in diet-related cancer and the ongoing obesity epidemic.

Dr. Roberts said that ‘informed consumer food choices had led to a reduction in cardiovascular disease burden in Australia over recent years’ but that we are now ‘at serious risk of going backwards, with an obesity epidemic and an unprecedented proliferation of packaged foods making claims of a health benefit’.

Please find the joint media release from the Cancer Council and National Heart Foundation here.