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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    • "In conclusion, with a mean intake of 22 %TE total sugars, 14 %TE free sugars, and 12 %TE added sugars, only a small percentage of the population under study adhered to the updated WHO and SACN recommendations. Future studies are warranted on the associations between intake of total and individual sugars intake and cardio-metabolic outcomes and chronic diseases and whether these associations are mediated by their energy content.[20]. "

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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.
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    • "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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