Nutrition and health claims are displayed to influence consumers’ food choices. This study assessed the extent and nature of nutrition and health claims on the front-of-pack of ‘healthy’ and ‘less-healthy’ packaged foods in New Zealand. Foods from eight categories, for which consumption may affect the risk of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases, were selected from the 2014 Nutritrack database. The internationally standardised International Network for Food and Obesity/Non-Communicable Diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) taxonomy was used to classify claims on packages. The Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC) was used to classify products as ‘healthy’ or ‘less healthy’. In total, 7526 products were included, with 47 % (n 3557) classified as ‘healthy’. More than one-third of products displayed at least one nutrition claim and 15 % featured at least one health claim on the front-of-pack. Claims were found on one-third of ‘less-healthy’ products; 26 % of those products displayed nutrition claims and 7 % featured health claims. About 45 % of ‘healthy’ products displayed nutrition claims and 23 % featured health claims. Out of 7058 individual claims, the majority (69 %) were found on ‘healthy’ products. Cereals displayed the greatest proportion of nutrition and health claims (1503 claims on 564 products), of which one-third were displayed on ‘less-healthy’ cereals. Such claims could be misleading consumers’ perceptions of nutritional quality of foods. It needs to be explored how current regulations on nutrition and health claims in New Zealand could be further strengthened (e.g. using the NPSC for nutrition claims, including general health claims as per the INFORMAS taxonomy) to ensure consumers are protected and not misled.
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