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Swedes become first in Europe to adopt a low-GI health claim

Sweden has become the first country in Europe to allow health claims on products with a low-GI rating. While many European countries, most notably the UK, have embraced the low-GI idea, with GI products and labelling schemes in place alerting consumers to low- and medium-GI foods, Sweden has moved into novel territory by formalizing a health claim low-GI products can bear. The claim states, ?(X) gives a low and slow blood sugar response and has a scientifically tested low glycaemic index.?

To gain the claim, products must meet the following criteria:

  • Products must have been tested according to methodology of the World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, on at least 10 healthy non-medicating test subjects at two independent labs.
  • The GI determination should be made in the morning after fasting.
  • Products must be carbohydrate-rich providing at least 15g and preferably 20g carbohydrate per serving, and it is recommended that the subjects eat an amount of the test product that corresponds to 50g available carbohydrates.

Sweden?s Cerealia Foods and Bread is putting the claim on eight of its products, including its vegetarian foods joint venture with Finnish-based Raisio Group, GoGreen. Products approved include ready meals with rice or pasta, a muesli product and a bread product.

?We are targeting the sports and healthy lifestyle because while GI awareness is rising in Sweden, it is still fairly low,? said Christian Ahl, business development manager at Swedish-based Cerealia Foods and Breads. ?We did some research that showed only 10 per cent of Swedes understood GI — so we are targeting those consumers. We have launched a TV ad campaign, and are educating the public about GI via in-store leaflets, as well as information on our website.?

Ahl added: ?We have seen sales improve since we put the claims on our products and are looking to launch more products with GI claims in the near future, although I can?t say what they are at the moment.?

A low-GI sandwich bar has opened in London to meet inner-city lunch demands. Called Energi Box, it stocks low-GI sandwiches, salads, pasta, soups, porridge and beverages, and markets itself with the line: ?Energi Box does the math, you do the munching.? It is believed to be the first GI-specific retail outlet in the world.

At the recent IFT conference in New Orleans, Kathie Wrick, a partner with Massachusetts-based consultancy the Food Group, noted that published GI values of specific foods can vary up to 25 per cent, a range most scientists consider unacceptable. Despite FAO/WHO backing, no major US health organisation has recognised GI in disease prevention and management.

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