Background Nutrition communication by means of nutrition and health claims and otherwise, holds the potential to contribute to public health by stimulating informed healthier food choices and enhanced healthfocussed competition in the market place, provided that the health messages are trustworthy (i.e. scientifically substantiated) and correctly used and interpreted by the consumer. Not surprisingly, these two considerations constitute the cornerstone of the new EU legislation on nutrition and health claims, in which evidence for consumer understanding of nutrition and health claims is a new requirement. Aim of the study To review some of the key issues in consumer understanding of nutritional communication as a basis for reflection on the consumer understanding element of the new EU legislation on nutrition and health claims. Conclusions There is a need for more methodologically advanced research in consumer understanding of nutrition and health claims as a basis for truly assessing the real-life use of such information and its actual effect on consumer food choices. Such approaches are pertinent in light of the evaluation and approval process of (new) nutrition and health claims as required under the new EU legislation on nutrition and health claims.