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 21 February 2018), 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. (2014) A systematic review of the prevalence of nutrition labels and completeness of nutrient declarations on pre-packaged foods in China. Journal of Public Health 37(4), 649-658
A 2012 Central American Technical Regulation (67.01.60:10) establishes rules on the use of specified nutrient content claims (ie levels of fat for a low fat claim). Claims are not permitted on products that may promote or sanction excessive consumption of these nutrients or undermine good dietary practice. Although nutrition content claims need to meet certain criteria set out in the Regulation, there are no generalised nutritional criteria that restrict their use on "unhealthy" food.
A 2012 Central American Technical Regulation (67.01.60:10) permits and regulates the use of nutrient function and disease risk reduction claims. Claims must be substantiated through information demonstrating the nutritional composition of the food, and the relationship between the claimed function of the food product and the beneficial effect on diet and health. The Ministry of Health has responsibility to approve the use of claims on food containing high levels of nutrients that can increase risk of illness or health problems. Claims are not permitted on products that may promote or sanction excessive consumption of these nutrients or undermine good dietary practice. There are no generalised nutritional criteria that restrict their use on "unhealthy" food.
Policies within this category aim to harness the whole food system, and the sectors which influence it, to ensure coherence with healthy eating. This is because the food system, and the policies that affect it, influence our food environment.
What our food industry produces is in part a response to incentives in the supply chain. Sectors outside of health influence our ability to take policy action. Likewise, if governments implement policies contained in NOURISHING, they have repercussions upstream for the actors and activities in food systems. This wider relationship to the food supply chain presents an opportunity to support all the policies in NOURISHING with actions in the food supply chain.
Added February 2018: The National Council for Food and Nutrition Security (CONASAN), established in 2005 by Decree No. 32/2005 (Ley del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional (SINASAN) – Law of the National Food and Nutritional Security System) leads nutrition policy direction in Guatemala. CONASAN is responsible for encouraging actions that promote food and nutrition security at the national level in political, economic, cultural, operational and financial spheres. The Council is chaired by the Vice President and consists of eight representatives from Ministries (Agriculture; Livestock and Food; Public Health and Social Assistance; Education; Environment and Natural Resources; Economy; Public finances; Communications, Infrastructure and Housing; and Labour and Social Welfare); the Secretariat for Food and Security Nutrition Security (SESAN); the Presidential Secretariat for Executive Coordination; the Secretariat for Social Works of the President's Wife; two representatives from the private sector, and five representatives from civil society. SESAN, which acts as Secretary of the Board, supports stakeholder and institution coordination. CONASAN approves and promotes compliance with the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy and implements government regulations that allow for the reduction of malnutrition in all its forms.
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.
New countries added February 2018: 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 (Australia, India, US), plates (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. Details on the content of national dietary guidelines can be found on the FAO database on Food-based dietary guidelines.