Why can’t you make health claims on natural ingredients?

You’ve read the articles, seen your favourite celebrity using them and heard your friends rave about how much better they’ve made them feel. So, why aren’t products made with natural ingredients shouting about how great they are for you on the packaging?

Well, health claims are a very strict, highly regulated thing, relying on scientific testing and stringent rules, and sometimes those standards can’t be met by all natural ingredients. That doesn’t mean they don’t give you the benefit you’ve heard all about. They’re just less likely to shout about it in adverts or on packaging.

Here are three reasons why your favourite natural product isn’t using health claims:

#1. It’s harder to measure natural ingredients

A lot of the food products you buy, like cereals fortified with iron or fruit juices with extra vitamins have been manufactured in controlled conditions with the thing that’s good for you added in – it doesn’t occur naturally. Most natural food products are made from just one ingredient, or sometimes a couple blended together, with nothing else added. Because it hasn’t been processed to the extent an ‘enhanced’ product has, there’s no test to see how much of the beneficial ingredient occurs in each flower, leaf or root.

#2. It’s too expensive for small producers to test

Most pharmaceuticals are produced by massive companies that produce drugs in vast quantities to treat common ailments all across the world. They can’t sell their product unless it’s been rigorously tested – mainly because it could be really harmful if they got it wrong. And to make health claims on a food or drink, the Food Standards Agency demands lots of costly scientific testing that can also take many years, so many natural ingredient producers just aren’t able to go down that road. Most natural ingredients are produced by smaller producers who don’t have the budget or the level of sales necessary to pay for scientific testing, often for ingredients that have been tried and tested over many years. That doesn’t mean the benefits aren’t there – there just haven’t been tests (or enough controlled tests) to satisfy scientists.

#3. You might not be using it right

Like anything that serves a purpose, whether it’s a functional food or a man-made medicine, the user has a lot of influence on its effectiveness. The same goes for natural ingredients – you have to follow the instructions to get maximum benefit - for example, drinking a tea after every meal to aid digestion, or letting a natural herbal infusion brew for 10 minutes to make sure all the vitamins and minerals are released. While producers can give clear instructions on how to use their product, they can’t guarantee you’ll follow them, and, let’s face it, you’re more likely to risk missing a cup of a helpful herbal tea than you are your doctor-prescribed medicine.

So, just because a natural ingredient isn’t covered in health claims, that doesn’t mean it can’t support a healthier lifestyle. Do your research and then see what works for you.