Development of international criteria for a front of package food labelling system: The International Choices Programme

Department of Health Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
European journal of clinical nutrition (Impact Factor: 2.71). 06/2011; 65(11):1190-200. DOI: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.101
Source: PubMed


A global push to reduce the amount of saturated and trans-fatty acids, added salt and sugar in processed food, and to enhance fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake, while limiting energy intake, exists for most populations.
To redesign the International Choices Program (note: this is unrelated to the US Smart Choices Program), initially Netherlands focused, by an international board of scientists to create a generic, global front-of-pack nutrition logo system that helps consumers make healthier food choices and stimulates product reformulation.
The Programme is a product-group-specific-nutrient-profiling approach with a distinction between basic and discretionary foods. The basic product groups are main contributors of essential and beneficial nutrients, and are based on food-based dietary guidelines from more than 20 countries across the globe. Generic criteria are derived from international nutrient recommendations for trans-fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, sodium, added sugar, fibre and energy, and evaluated against food composition data from 12 countries across Europe and market reality (actual foods on the market). Selected debates such as the source of fibre are also presented.
Generic criteria and a decision framework were developed to further define food categories, so as to meet the unique country- and region-specific dietary needs. The result is a complete set of criteria that is evaluated on a regular basis to ensure its alignment with international dietary patterns, new scientific insights and current developments within the food market.
These guidelines are currently used in a number of countries across the globe, and are being evaluated for effectiveness. Completed studies have demonstrated an increase in consumer awareness, a positive effect on product innovation and a potential impact on nutrient intakes.

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    • "Table 1 from Roodenburg and Popkin et al. (2011) and Roodenburg and Schlatmann et al. (2011) "
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    ABSTRACT: Food composition data have extensively been used in the Choices International Programme: they formed the basis of both criteria development and nutrient intake modeling. Criteria were developed for key nutrients linked to non communicable diseases by an independent scientific committee. The criteria can be used for the logo assignment on food products, in order to stimulate producers to improve their products and to stimulate consumers to purchase these products. Insights in steps of development of the criteria for the Choices program illustrates the importance of food composition data in this process. Modeling studies with the criteria for the Dutch Choices program showed an improved nutrient intake profile if consumers would choose products fulfilling the criteria of the Dutch logo as part of their diets. The role and availability of food composition databases in the development of the criteria and the modeling studies is discussed.
    Food Chemistry 07/2015; 193. DOI:10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.06.082 · 3.39 Impact Factor
    • "There are environmental relationships also to be considered (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2007); however, the major battle about food vs processed food is not pursued further here (Ludwig and Nestle, 2008; Monteiro and Cannon, 2012; Monteiro et al., 2010, 2011, 2013; Nestle, 2007a,b; Pollan, 2006a,b, 2010; Woolf and Nestle, 2008) though elements of this affect weight gain, obesity and all other major noncommunicable diseases (Mozaffarian et al., 2011; Mozaffarian, 2010; Willett, 2001, 2006). This side battle focuses the food only push vs those who focus on improving the quality of what is already purchased (Rayner et al., 2013; Roodenburg et al., 2011; Sacks et al., 2011; Wartella et al., 2010). There are major critiques of this approach (Brownell and Koplan, 2011; Nestle and Ludwig, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: The entire food value chain and diet of low and middle income countries (LMICs) are rapidly shifting. Many of the issues addressed by the nutrition community ignore some of the major underlying shifts in purchases of consumer packaged foods and beverages. At the same time, the drivers of the food system at the farm level might be changing. There is a need for the agriculture and nutrition communities to understand these changes and focus on some of their implications for health. This rapid growth of the retail sector will change the diets of the food insecure as much as that of the food secure across rural and urban LMIC’s. This short commentary contents that current research, programs and policies are ignoring these rapid dynamic shifts.
    Food Policy 08/2014; 47:91–96. DOI:10.1016/j.foodpol.2014.05.001 · 1.80 Impact Factor
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    • "A randomized experiment with three levels of price reduction x three types of labels on healthy foods was conducted. Healthy products were defined following the Choices front-of-pack nutrition label criteria [13] (Table 1). A sample size was determined using delta-values of fruit and vegetable purchases as effect size [14]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Two strategies commonly recommended to improve population diets include food labels and food taxes/subsidies. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of both strategies separately and in combination. Findings An experiment with a 3x3 factorial design was conducted, including: three levels of price reduction (10%; 25%; and 50%) x three labels (‘special offer’, ‘healthy choice’ and ‘special offer & healthy choice’) on healthy foods defined following the Choices front-of-pack nutrition label. N = 109 participants completed the experiment by conducting a typical weekly shop for their household at a three-dimensional web-based supermarket. Data were analysed using analysis of covariance. Participants receiving a 50% price discount purchased significantly more healthy foods for their household in a typical weekly shop than the 10% discount (+8.7 items; 95%CI = 3.8-13.6) and the 25% discount group (+7.7 items; 95%CI = 2.74 – 12.6). However, the proportion of healthy foods was not significantly higher and the discounts lead to an increased amount of energy purchased. No significant effects of the labels were found. Conclusion This study brings some relevant insights into the effects of price discounts on healthier foods coupled with different labels and shows that price effects over shadowed food labels. However, price discounts seem to have ambiguous effects; they do encourage the purchase of healthy products, but also lead to increased energy purchases. More research is needed to examine how pricing strategies can work in directing consumers towards interchanging unhealthier options for healthier alternatives.
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