The UK body set up to safeguard consumers from spurious health claims on food products has approved a new claim with regard to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS).
The health claim says consumption of omega-3 PUFAS is beneficial in maintaining heart health and it will provide a welcome marketing advantage to those products that carry such nutrients.
Found mainly in oily fish, PUFAS are not widely consumed in the average UK diet, yet the health benefits are believed to go beyond heart health, improving mental performance and preventing other age-related diseases.
Some manufacturers are already adding omega-3 PUFAS to products such as bread and orange juice, or are adding them to feed for laying hens to produced omega-3 rich eggs, but the market is still niche.
Jerry Luff from omega-3 supplier Nu-Mega Ingredients says the claim is a great "innovation opportunity" for food manufacturers and retailers.
"The new claim on packaging will help consumers make the link between omega-3 enriched foods and heart health, encouraging them to purchase," he says.
More mainstream omega-3 fortified products could arrive on the market soon, as Kellogg is rumoured to have signed a licensing deal with omega-3 supplier Martek.
The Joint Health Claims Initiative -- a non-governmental organisation made up of representatives from consumer groups, food law enforcers and the food industry -- has approved the carefully worded claim: "Eating 3g weekly or 0.45g daily of long chain omega-3 PUFAS, as part of a healthy lifestyle helps maintain a healthy heart."
It only relates to very long chain PUFAS, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but does not include the fatty acid alpha linolenic acid.
Strict usage criteria have been laid down for the claim with regard to labelling the origin of the nutrients and the amount per serving.
The JHCI also recommends that companies seek its advice before making any claims.