Wednesday March 20, 2019

Labels on Packaged Foods Promote Healthier Choices, Shows Study

Further, the team found no consistent differential effects by label placements (menu, package, other point-of-purchase), label types (e.g. nutrient content), suggesting information may be more relevant to consumers

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Packaged Foods Could Be Harmful, consumer
Food labels promote healthier choices: Study. Pixabay

Labels on packaged foods such as nutrition facts, “low-sodium” or “fat-free” as well as calorie counts on restaurant menus, have to some extent encouraged healthier eating choices, say researchers.

The research, led by Tufts University researchers, found that labelling reduced consumers’ intake of calories by 6.6 per cent, total fat by 10.6 per cent and other unhealthy food options by 13 per cent.

Labelling also increased consumers’ vegetable consumption by 13.5 per cent.

In contrast, labelling did not significantly impact consumer intakes of other targets such as total carbohydrate, total protein, saturated fat, fruits, whole grains or other healthy options, the researchers rued.

“Many old and new food policies focus on labelling, whether on food packages or restaurant menus. Remarkably, the effectiveness of these labels, whether for changing consumers’ choices or industry product formulations, has not been clear,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean at Tufts’s Friedman School.

“Our findings provide new evidence on what might work, and what might not, when implementing food labelling,” he added.

Food Waste,
A worker removes expired food in a local supermarket in Brussels on Jan. 16, 2017. The European Court of Auditors chided the European Union’s executive branch in a report, “Combating Food Waste,” that decries the bloc’s lack of effort in reducing the food waste, estimating the EU wastes 88 million tons of food per year. VOA

For the research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the team reviewed 60 interventional studies — conducted in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

When industry responses were evaluated, the team found that labelling led to reductions of both trans-fat and sodium in packaged foods by 64.3 per cent and 8.9 per cent, respectively.

However, no significant effects of labelling were identified for industry formulations of total calories, saturated fat, dietary fibre, other healthy components (e.g., protein and unsaturated fat), or other unhealthy components (e.g., total fat, sugar, and dietary cholesterol), although relatively few studies evaluated these endpoints.

Also Read- A City in Northern China Bans Christmas Sales

“For industry responses, it’s interesting that the two altered components-trans-fat and sodium-are additives,” said Mozaffarian.

“This suggests that industry may be more readily able to alter additives, as opposed to naturally occurring ingredients such as fat or calories, in response to labelling. It will be interesting to see whether this will translate to added sugar,” he noted.

Further, the team found no consistent differential effects by label placements (menu, package, other point-of-purchase), label types (e.g. nutrient content), suggesting information may be more relevant to consumers. (IANS)

Next Story

FSSAI Chief Decides to Make Labelling Compulsory if GM Content is Over 1%

Agarwal said there was a shortage of manpower and resources in some states but things were improving

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Packaged Foods Could Be Harmful, consumer
Food labels promote healthier choices: Study. Pixabay

Notwithstanding the lobbying from pro-GM crop groups, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has decided to go ahead with labelling packaged food products with over one per cent of Genetically Modified ingredients.

The scientific committee of the food regulator has green-signalled labelling of GM food items for manufacture, sale and distribution in India with a threshold value of one per cent, FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal told IANS in an interview.

“GM food lebelling will now be a part of GM food regulation itself. We have taken a view to reduce it to one per cent,” he said.

If the maximum residue level (MRL) of GM ingredients reaches one per cent, food products will have to display a message on their packaging that they contain GM food.

A notification in this regard will be issued following approval by the government, Agarwal said.

Earlier, the threshold of five per cent was being considered. However, the scientific committee zeroed in on one per cent following consultations with all the stakeholders.

soy milk
A photo shows the ingredients label for soy milk at a grocery store in New York, Feb. 16, 2017. The dairy industry says terms like “soy milk” violate the federal standard for milk, but even government agencies have internally clashed over the proper term.VOA

Lebelling of GM food is required in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Brazil and China.

The FSSAI had come under severe criticism after environmental watchdog Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) reported in July last year that 21 of the randomly picked 65 food products, including that for newborns, from different retail outlets in the country were found GM positive in its lab tests.

Agarwal said the decision on banning or limiting the use of antibiotics in food products would be notified in the next two to three months.

“We were petitioned by the industry that antibiotics in products generally come from primary sources such as through fodder or medical treatment. They also need time to set up lab test facilities,” he said.

“We will decide in the next two-three months about how many of the 100-odd antibiotics should be banned immediately and which can be given more time to come to a decision.”

Consumers
A worker removes expired food in a local supermarket in Brussels, Jan. 16, 2017. VOA

He said some antibiotics would be allowed but their presence in food products should be below the prescribed MRL.

Agarwal also said the food regulator had taken a strict view of the food safety norms being flouted by restaurants that have tie-ups with e-commerce food service companies.

“These e-commerce companies have identified 10,400 such restaurants that failed to follow the safety norms. The list has been shared with the state governments. The state governments are in the process of closing them down or persuading them to follow norms to keep their licenses (active),” he said.

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A parliamentary panel had last year rapped FSSAI over weak enforcement of food safety laws as many states did not have food safety departments.

Agarwal said there was a shortage of manpower and resources in some states but things were improving.

“New labs are coming up in some states with the support of the central government. The state food labs system is currently weak. Once these labs are operational, testing will be more robust. We are working with states to create posts and fill them up,” he said. (IANS)