The Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations 1924/2006 (NHCR), effective from 1 July 2007, are the first piece of specific legislation that places controls on the use of nutrition and health claims in the advertising and labelling of foods. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is looking to update its advertising codes to reflect the NHCR.

The Broadcast Committee for Advertising Practice (BCAP) has opened up a consultation on the changes it is proposing, to bring the TV and Radio Advertising Standards Codes (BCAP Code) into line with the NHCR. The BCAP code currently contains rules on misleading practices in relation to food and in particular in relation to children's health. It is expected that only a small number of changes will be made to the BCAP code.

While the non-broadcast version of the code (the CAP Code) has been amended without consultation, it is under review as a whole. Responses to the broadcast consultation may, ultimately, shape future code rules on health and nutrition claims in non-broadcast advertising.

The main changes to the CAP Code are:

  • claims about weight loss (rule 51.10 and 56.10);
  • claims about dietary supplements (rules 50.21); and
  • blanket prohibition on health claims for food products which refer to recommendations from doctors and health professionals (rule 50.17).

The changes to the CAP Code do not mirror all the provisions of the NHCR. However, advertisers are reminded that both the CAP and BCAP codes contain a general requirement that marketing communication must comply with law, including the NHCR.

With the consultation closing on 16 February, advertisers and agencies have just a short time remaining to get their views across. There may be limited room for manoeuvre, given that the changes are intended to reflect law which is already in place. However, this is also a good opportunity for food marketers to remind themselves of their new responsibilities.