Article

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: 3.07). 06/2011; 65(11):1190-200. DOI: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.101
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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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