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Health food industry regulation

The health food industry plays a key role in providing the nation with a practical way of sustaining good health, as well as being a forum for business innovation. The sector is a driving force in the food business as British culture turns towards ‘green’ life styles. Studies show more customers than ever are actively seeking out ‘healthy’ products in their daily diet, and health food stores are a common sight on high streets.

There are plenty of success stories from the sector. Many people make health food supplements such as cod liver oil or multi-vitamins part of their daily diet, while the ‘super food’ concept is driving more and more customers to fresh produce and other related products. Despite the economic conditions, the high street health food retailer Holland & Barrett has grown steadily and is now expanding its overseas business. The company believes this is down to consumers viewing a healthy diet as a key area of their life and refusing to cut spending despite diminished incomes. If true, this provides an opportunity for success in an otherwise difficult market.

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Stephensons helpline

At Stephensons, we understand how important it is for firms to take advantage of the opportunities offered by areas like this quicker than their competitors while ensuring they don’t incur unnecessary liabilities. That’s why our expert team of commercial lawyers operate a results-oriented service designed to give you the best chance of success without clogging up your time with legal jargon and red tape. We know every client is unique and we take the time to understand the individual needs of each business we deal with.
Stephensons’ helpline offers free initial guidance on your options to any businesses in need of legal help - 01616 966 229. We know how important listening is, which is why we take care to identify the unique qualities of your businesses so we can offer accurate advice that goes the extra mile. Our service is plain-speaking and focused on the end result, which means you’ll be free to concentrate on other areas.
To take advantage of opportunities in this expanding area of commerce, businesses must be careful to avoid conflicts with the extensive legal regulation of food products. Many of these regulations are very detailed and navigating them without incident can be challenging and time consuming. Two of the ways in which your product must conform to government standards are in packaging and advertising.


Food product packaging must comply with regulations designed to protect public health and maintain quality. The area is particularly difficult to navigate since businesses must comply with both national law and European Union law.

The UK Food Labelling Regulations 1996 establish an array of requirements for food product packaging, including a list of ingredients and their quantities. Certain food names are protected, while others must be used if the product is of a certain type. Avoiding conflict can be a difficult task since the law is often even more complex in practice than it seems in the statute book. We can offer clear, plain-speaking advice that ensures a hassle-free compliance so you can avoid conflict and concentrate on guiding your business to success.
The EU Food Information Regulation will bring new requirements for product content information into English law, amongst other things. Compliance with EU regulations can be even more challenging than national legislation. That’s why you’ll want a professional team of experts behind you to navigate your business safely through the EU legal minefield.


The government maintains extensive regulations on product advertising. The Advertising Standards Agency published a new code on advertising which businesses must now comply with in conjunction with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. These regulations create a host of important rules. For example, advertisements must not exaggerate the effects of the product and companies must prove claims about the product, as well as a host of requirements relating to testimonials. These are all especially important for the health food sector, since products in this area are sold on the strength of their positive effects on health.

Although the agency tries to operate a ‘common sense’ approach to reviewing advertisements it is still potentially dangerous for businesses to invest in an advertising strategy without fully understanding the requirements of the law. Take a look at some of the examples below:

Actimel - 2009

A television advert by Danone for their ‘Actimel’ pro-biotic yoghurt drink fell foul of the agency regulations and had to be withdrawn. The advert claimed that Actimel was ‘scientifically proven to help support your kids’ defences’. ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: ‘We thought that their evidence fell short. It wasn’t a million miles away, it wasn’t actually bad evidence compared to some that we see, but it wasn’t good enough to prove the claim.’. This demonstrates how important it is to have solid legal advice behind you before designing a marketing strategy around a particular claim.

Tetley Green Tea - 2009

Tetley’s television advert for their green tea product was banned by the ASA on two grounds. The advert showed a woman preparing for a run, but then stopping as she reached the door due to heavy rain and instead sitting down for a cup of Tetley’s Green Tea. The images were accompanied by the slogan ‘for an easy way to help look after yourself pick up Tetley Green Tea. It's full of antioxidants.’ Even though no detailed claims about health benefits were made, the ASA held that the images implied that the product produced similar health benefits to running. In addition the claims about antioxidants did not meet ASA scientific standards.

This case demonstrates the problems businesses can run into if they don’t receive effective legal advice. The ASA are clearly prepared to take a tough stance on product claims, which is why it’s especially important that your business gets in contact with the expert team at Stephensons before you embark on an expensive advertising scheme.

Stephensons' regulatory team have a history of great results in regulatory compliance. With our advice you can be sure that your advertisements are completely in line with government standards and avoid incurring expensive liabilities. Call our free helpline today and find out how we can help your business move forward: 01616 966 229

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