We developed the NOURISHING framework to highlight where governments need to take action to promote healthy diets and reduce overweight and obesity.
The framework is accompanied by a regularly updated database (last updated 8 May 2019), providing an extensive overview of implemented government policy actions from around the world.
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The evidence suggests people who want to eat well use nutrient lists to choose healthier options. Interpretative labels help them when they find the labels hard to understand. Nutrition labels also create incentives for food manufacturers to reformulate their products, so helping populations more broadly by increasing the availability of food of higher nutritional value.
Clear standards are also needed on the use of nutrient and health claims. Evidence shows these claims alter the perception people have of these products – making it essential that they do not mislead.
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*Most other countries follow Guideline CAC/GL 2-1985 from the Codex Alimentarius Commission in requiring nutrition labels only when a nutrition or health claim is made and/or on food with special dietary uses
Producers and retailers are required by law to provide a list of the nutrient content of pre-packaged food products (with limited exceptions), even in the absence of a nutrition or health claim. The rules define which nutrients must be listed and on what basis (eg per 100g/per serving).
Huang L et al. (2015) A systematic review of the prevalence of nutrition labels and completeness of nutrient declarations on pre-packaged food in China. Journal of Public Health 37(4), 649-658
Empirical estimates show that food prices influence, to a varying degree, how much food people buy. Targeted subsidies have been shown to help overcome affordability barriers to healthy food for people on low incomes. Incentives, like financial rewards or price discounts, have also been shown to encourage people to switch to healthier options.
Emerging evidence from implemented taxes, as well as modelling studies, indicate the potential for effectiveness to reduce consumption. Given food choices are influenced by a whole host of factors, especially in modern, complex food markets, taxes must be designed very carefully to maximise effectiveness.
Please note, $ refers to USD.
On 1 July 2017, The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act 2017 came into force across India which introduced a Goods and Services Tax of 28% on all goods [including aerated waters], containing added sugar or other sweetening matter or flavour with a further 12% cess added on top of the tax. This Act replaces all other GST laws at State level and is applied across India. It is the highest GST rate for goods in India.
There is clear evidence that the advertisements children see influence their food preferences and habits. There is also a lot of evidence that children and adolescents around the world are exposed to a whole host of other promotional techniques, whether on a billboard or through a phone or computer.
Emerging evidence shows that restrictions work to reduce children’s exposure to marketing, but this depends on the criteria used in the restrictions. Given the role played by parents and caregivers in what children eat, consideration is needed of how they are also influenced by promotional activities.
Added May 2019: On 19 November 2018, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) published the Food Safety and Standards (Advertising and Claims) Regulations 2018. The regulations require food business operators and marketers to follow general principles when advertising, publishing or disseminating marketing of any food including on their labelling. The principles state that: claims made must be truthful, unambiguous, meaningful, not misleading and help consumers to comprehend information; should not encourage or condone excess consumption of particular food; not state, suggest or imply that a balanced or varied diet cannot provide appropriate quantities of nutrients; shall specify the number of servings of the food per day for the claimed benefit; all claims need to be scientifically substantiated by validated methods; use of the words natural, fresh, pure, traditional, authentic, genuine or real as part of trade mark or brand name that will mislead the consumer as to the nature of the food require a conspicuous and legible 3mm disclaimer to inform the consumer the trade or brand mark does not represent the true nature of the food; advertisements cannot undermine the importance of healthy lifestyles; and no advertisement can be made for food products which are deceptive to consumers. Food business operators must submit an application to the FSSAI for approval of claims. Any person who does not comply with the regulations will be penalised as per section 53 of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 or they may be required to stop the advertisement and issue a corrective advertisement within thirty days.
We are all influenced by the food that is available and affordable when we grow up, and the habits of the people around us. That’s why people in different countries and communities consume differently. We know that when the food supply changes, so does what people eat. This is why we need to improve the quality of the food supply. Evidence from salt reduction indicates that people’s tastes can change.
In August 2015, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India revised the maximum permitted amount of trans fat content in edible fats and oils, including hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine and fat spreads, from 10% to 5%. Amendments were made to the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additive) Regulation, 2011 and the new 5% limit came into effect on 27 February 2017.
Awareness is one precursor to eating well. The evidence suggests that public campaigns can boost awareness. To influence consumption, they need to be sustained and use multiple channels.
Updated May 2019: Food-based dietary guidelines are an information and communication tool involving the translation of recommended nutrient intakes or population targets into recommendations of the balance of food that populations should be consuming for a healthy diet. They typically promote increased intake of fruit and vegetables and limited intake of salt/sodium and sugar. They may also include guidance on physical activity and healthy weight, and provide guidelines for different population groups. Countries use various formats of presenting the guidelines including cooking pots (Guatemala, Paraguay), pineapples (Fiji), pyramids (India, US), plates (Australia, Colombia, UK), pagodas (China), spinning top (Venezuela), traditional African house (Benin) and circles (Argentina). Some countries have started to include sustainability criteria in their dietary guidelines (eg Germany in 2013, Finland and Brazil in 2014, Sweden and Qatar in 2015, the Netherlands and UK in 2016). Brazil’s revised dietary guidelines, launched in 2014, present food- and meal-based recommendations that take into account cultural dimensions and promote the consumption of minimally processed food as well as health, wellbeing and sustainable food systems, and recommend avoiding ultra-processed food. Canada’s new food guide, launched in 2019, provides guidance on what to eat, as well as how to eat. This includes recommendations on healthy eating habits that encourage people to cook more often, to be mindful of their eating habits, to use food labels, to cook at home and to eat meals with others. The new food guide is an online suite of resources that provides information targeted to different audiences, including the general public, health professionals and policy makers.
Details on the content of national dietary guidelines can be found on the FAO database on Food-based dietary guidelines.