Healthwashing: The Danish Food and Drug Administration investigates health claims on nutritional supplements

In the most recent public crackdown on ‘healthwashing’ The Danish Food and Drug Administration has announced they are about to actively investigate certain companies’ claims that their nutritional supplements can cure diseases, relieve pain, or deliver any other health benefit.

Today almost half of Denmark’s adult population now takes nutritional supplements regularly. It is therefore no surprise that the authorities have decided to place the claims manufacturers are making in their marketing under greater scrutiny. Their investigation will begin with the initial inspection of 130 producers starting in March.

Michael Rosenmark, head of the travel team at the Danish Food and Drug Administration, has told the media why it is so important for them to investigate health claims on nutritional supplements:

"The rules are very clear and put in place to protect consumers who, in a pressured situation, may be prepared to spend large sums of money on food supplements, which then do not have the effect that consumers are expected to have. Unfortunately, we see from time to time that there are companies that do not fully comply with the rules. That's why we now conduct control and guidance visits."

In terms of the types of claims that are not permissible, Mr Rosenmark explained food producers cannot:

  • Indicate that a dietary supplement can prevent, treat, or cure disease or symptoms of disease.
  • Indicate that a dietary supplement product can reduce the risk of cancer or relieve pain.

Both would be in clear and obvious breach of Denmark’s current rules governing the prohibition of illness claims.


However, many of these investigations are expected to discover that the manufacturers are adhering to the required EU-approved health claims.

You can make claims based on proven scientific precedence. For example, if a product contains a significant amount of vitamin C, you could claim the product will benefit the immune system because there is significant evidence that vitamin C does contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system. This claim has therefore been approved by the EU. 

The EU is careful to keep its register of approved health claims up to date and publicly available. Their website contains a downloadable Excel sheet listing:

  • Permitted nutrition claims and their conditions of use.
  • Authorised health claims and the conditions of their use (highlighting any associated restrictions).
  • Claims that have not been authorised along with the reasons why they were not authorised.
  • The relevant EU legislation linked to specific health claims.

Any associated national measures mentioned in Art. 23(3) of Regulation EC 1924/2006

However, it is important to note that this list only covers health claims and not nutrition claims.

If you are involved in the food industry and are concerned you may be at risk of claims of healthwashing or greenwashing or have any other questions regarding your legal or IP position, please contact our specialist foodtech team today.