EFSA launches public consultation on its draft scientific opinion on Food-Based Dietary Guidelines

EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) has today launched a public consultation on its draft scientific opinion on Food-Based dietary guidelines (FBDG). The Panel’s draft opinion provides scientific advice to the European Commission and Member States on how to approach the translation of general nutrient-based recommendations into specific food consumption recommendations, while taking into account the diversity of the European Union population and different countries. The main conclusion of the Panel is that it is not feasible to establish detailed and effective FBDG which could be used at the EU level as diet-related public health priorities may differ between countries. FBDG must also take into account wide disparities in dietary habits, due to cultural differences in eating patterns and the varying availability of food products across Europe. Therefore the NDA Panel decided to focus its opinion on the scientific process underlying the development of FBDG. According to the opinion, eating habits have a significant impact on public health, particularly through the risk of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. The Panel recommends that Member States analyse country-specific diet-related health problems in order to adapt their food-based dietary guidance to the needs of their population. FBDG should also be tested to ensure their effectiveness and positive impact on overall dietary balance. Specific recommendations for the intake of individual nutrients or substances in food-based terms can help consumers in making healthy dietary choices, and could be the basis for communications on nutrition and diet-related topics to the public. According to the Panel, Food-Based Dietary Guidelines should also be integrated with other policies related to health promotion, for instance the encouragement of daily physical activity. The Panel recommended that Member States take a multidisciplinary approach in developing these guidelines. The early involvement of stakeholders is recommended to promote the acceptance of messages. The open consultation launched today aims to gather any new scientific evidence which could contribute to this work. The consultation will be open until 15 December 2008. The NDA Panel had previously organised a colloquium on the Development of Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG) in March 2006, when over 60 participants discussed the best scientific approaches for the development of FBDG.

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