Companies increasingly turn to nutrient profiling

While the controversial health claims and nutrition regulation is passed between the various legislative institutions of the European Union, companies and government bodies are taking matters into their own hands with revised policies on labelling and health claims, and the constitution of foods.

Kellogg?s has institutionalised Guidance for Dietary Allowances (GDA) on its breakfast cereals in the UK with Europe and the other markets to follow. A Unilever UK spokesperson said: ?We are evaluating all our products with the aim to make all our products healthier.? And it?s not just in Europe.

Pepsi has the SmartSpot label that appears on its healthier North American offerings. Kraft has a similar programme with Sensible Solution in the US.

Much of this activity revolves around the concept of nutrient profiling, which is multi-faceted and confusing to many people, even those in the food industry attempting to deal with its ramifications. In essence there are two aspects to the nutrient profiling debate: what?s in the food and should the nutrient profile of certain food categories be regulated (ie, no breakfast cereal should contain more than 10 per cent sugar)?; and how should the nutrient profile of foods be communicated to consumers on the label(ie, with a GDA scheme, signposting, etc.)?

Varying proposals are being discussed, with some groups like the UK Food Standards Agency calling for the imposition of labelling standards to avoid consumer confusion. Kraft Foods German-based senior director of international nutrition Gerd Harzer believes a threshold and disclosure system is the most manageable. Products can carry a positive mark (like Sensible Solution) if their contents are below designated salt, sugar, fat thresholds.

?In case a product carries an additional benefit, but is above the threshold, then the claimed benefit should be accompanied by a so-called disclosure statement referring to the nutrition table and highlighting specifically the nutrients of concern like fat, sodium, etc,? he said at the recent Akademie Fresenius conference in Cologne, Germany.

Chris Werman, director of corporate communications at Kellogg?s Europe, voiced a common industry opposition to mooted traffic light systems that demonise certain foods and ingredients, in favour of a detailed labelling system. ?Disclosure can?t be much more transparent than our GDA scheme that lists all ingredients in our products and compares them to GDAs. And that?s front-of-pack across all our products,? he said.

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