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
Nutrient lists on pre-packaged food must, by law, include the trans fat content of the food. The rules generally define how the trans fat content must be listed, and on what basis (eg per 100g/100ml or per serving). If the trans fat content falls below a certain threshold, it may be listed as 0g (eg less than 0.5g per serving, or less than 0.3g per 100g of food product). Chile requires mandatory trans fat labelling only once the total fat content per serving exceeds 3g.
Doell D et al. (2012) Updated estimate of trans fat intake by the US population. Food Additives and Contaminants 29(6), 861-874
Van Camp et al. (2012) Changes in fat contents of US snack foods in response to mandatory trans fat labelling. Public Health Nutrition 15(6), 1130-1137
Lee JH et al. (2010) Trans Fatty Acids Content and Fatty Acid Profiles in Selected Food Products from Korea between 2005 and 2008. Journal of Food Science 75(7), C647-C652
Ricciuto L et al. (2008) A comparison of the fat composition and prices of margarines between 2002 and 2006, when new Canadian labelling regulations came into effect. Public Health Nutrition 12(8), 1270-1275
Friesen R, Innis SM (2006) Trans Fatty Acids in Human Milk in Canada Declined with the Introduction of Trans Fat Food Labeling. The Journal of Nutrition 136(10), 2558-2561
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.
The Less Salt, More Life Initiative aims to reduce population-level salt consumption in Argentina. It has three components: the reduction of salt in processed food through voluntary agreements with food manufacturers and retailers; the reduction of salt in bread through voluntary agreements with bakers; and creating public awareness of the health effects and the need to reduce discretional salt. A National Committee for Salt Reduction sets targets for the Initiative through negotiation with industry. The aim is to achieve a 5–10% reduction of salt content between 2013 and 2015. Sixty companies representing 487 processed food products and more than 9,000 bakeries have signed the agreement. In addition, the government adopted a law on mandatory maximum levels of sodium in 2013 (see I – "Mandatory limits on level of salt in food products").
In 2013, the Argentine government adopted a law on mandatory maximum levels of sodium permitted in meat products and their derivatives, breads and farinaceous products, soups, seasoning mixes and tinned food (Law no. 26.905 on Maximum Levels of Sodium Consumption). Large companies have to meet the sodium targets by December 2014, small and medium sized companies by June 2015. Infringements by producers and importers may be sanctioned, the most severe penalties being fines of up to 1m pesos, in case of repeat infringements up to 10m pesos, and the closing of the business for up to five years. The Law is also applicable to salt levels in restaurant dishes, and it provides for awareness campaigns, warnings on salt bags on the excessive use of salt, the reduction of salt bags available in restaurants and the introduction of low-sodium salt in salt shakers in restaurants.
In 2010, the Argentine Food Code was amended to set limits on trans fat permitted in food (Article 155 tris), with full implementation by food companies scheduled for 10 December 2014. Trans fat content must not exceed 2% of total vegetable fats in oils and margarines, and 5% of total fat in all other food.
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.
Governments in these countries manage, or are involved in, fruit and vegetable campaigns that promote the consumption of a certain number of fruit and vegetable portions a day, often "5 a day" (eg Argentina, Chile, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Tonga) but also "6 a day" (Denmark), "Go for 2&5" (Western Australia), “Fruits & Veggies – More Matters” (United States) or 5–10 (France).
Capacci S, Mazzocchi M (2011) Five-a-day, a price to pay: An evaluation of the UK program impact accounting for market forces. Journal of Health Economics 30(1), 87-98
Carter OBJ et al. (2011) ‘We’re not told why – we’re just told’: qualitative reflections about the Western Australian Go for 2&5® fruit and vegetable campaign. Public Health Nutrition 14(6), 982-988
Pollard CM et al. (2008) Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption: success of the Western Australian Go for 2&5® campaign. Public Health Nutrition 11(3), 314-320