Food and drink policies for better heart health

A message for World Heart Day, by Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety:

“I am a big fan of a Mediterranean style diet, rich in fruit and vegetables that is good for heart health. Unfortunately the numbers seem to suggest that not so many of us adopt this kind of regime. Indeed, only one in seven people over the age of 15 in the EU eats the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables every day according to 2016 figures. Furthermore, in 17 EU countries more that 50% of adults are overweight or obese, which we know is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease s (CVDs).”

The latter remains the leading cause of death and a major cause of illness and disability in the EU, despite considerable progress in tackling CVDs. According to the latest Eurostat data, heart diseases and strokes causes over 1.8 million deaths in the EU in 2014 alone, and according to the European Heart Network, dietary risks are the cause of around half of premature deaths from CVD. As our diet is such an important factor in warding off CVD, on this year’s World Heart Day I would like to focus on the importance of food and drink policies for heart health, and outline some supportive EU-actions in this area of national competence.

To read this message in full on the European Commission website: http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/sante/newsletter-specific-archive-issue.cfm?newsletter_service_id=327&newsletter_issue_id=5329

EU and FAO join forces to take action on food waste and antimicrobial resistance

The EU and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations join forces to take action on food waste and antimicrobial resistance.

The Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis and the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) José Graziano da Silva, today agreed to ramp up collaboration between the two organisations in tackling the problems of waste in food supply chains and antimicrobial resistance.

The FAO and the EU pledge to work closely together to halve per capita food waste by 2030, a goal established under the new Sustainable Development Goals global agenda. It also commits them to intensified cooperation on tackling the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on farms and in food systems.

To read more about these initiatives on the European Commission website: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-3561_en.htm

World hunger again on the rise

According to a new UN report world hunger is once again on the rise, driven by conflict and climate change. 815 million people are now hungry and millions of children are at risk from malnutrition.

After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise again, affecting 11 per cent of the global population. At the same time, multiple forms of malnutrition are threatening the health of millions worldwide. The increase – 38 million more people than the previous year – is largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017.

To read more on the WHO website: http://who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/world-hunger-report/en/

 

The links between Commercial Determinants of Health and Chronic Diseases

Unhealthy diet is the biggest risk factor for disability adjusted life years lost (DALYs) in the EU, principally through diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, with tobacco and alcohol also contributing significantly to the growing burden of chronic diseases  on health services.

Of course, this is far from coincidental. The private sector has a number of strategies and approaches that it employs “to promote products and choices that are detrimental to health”. They include marketing, which enhances the desirability and acceptability of products. Marketing in all its forms is key to unhealthy commodities’ acceptability, and crucially, their appeal.

To read more about these links on the epha.org site: https://epha.org/explaining-the-links-between-commercial-determinants-of-health-and-chronic-diseases/

The economic costs of unhealthy diets and low physical activity

Unhealthy diets and low physical activity contribute to many chronic diseases and disability; they are responsible for some 2 in 5 deaths worldwide and for about 30% of the global disease burden. Yet surprisingly little is known about the economic costs that these risk factors cause, both for health care and society more widely.

This study pulls together the evidence about the economic burden that can be linked to unhealthy diets and low physical activity.

The study’s findings are a step towards a better understanding of the economic burden that can be associated with two key risk factors for ill health and they will help policymakers in setting priorities and to more effectively promoting healthy diets and physical activity.

To download the report Assessing the costs of unhealthy diet and low physical activity from the euro.who.int websit

Children in the developed world

1 in 5 children in high-income countries lives in relative income poverty and an average of 1 in 8 faces food insecurity, according to the latest report by the UNICEF Office of Research.

This report ‘Building the Future: children and the sustainable development goals in rich countries’ is the first report to assess the status of children in 41 high-income countries in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified as most important for child well-being. It ranks countries based on their performance and details the challenges and opportunities that advanced economies face in achieving global commitments to children.

To download the report on the status of children in high-income countries from the unicef-irc.org website

France to colour-code nutrition labelling

France is recommending the Nutri-Score system –  a straightforward labelling system that uses colour codes to guide consumers at a glance on the nutritional value of food products. This marks an important achievement for nutrition in the WHO European Region and it will build on other ongoing efforts in the country to create healthy food environments.

The United Kingdom already recommends traffic light labelling, a system that uses red, amber and green to indicate levels of fat, salt and sugar contained in food products. The Nutri-Score system that France intends to use employs a nutrient profiling system, based on the UK Food Standards Agency model, and classifies foods and beverages according to five categories of nutritional quality, indicated via a colour scale ranging from Green (grade A) to red (grade E).

For more information about the Nutri-score system of food labelling on the euro.who.int website

TV and internet marketing to children

The WHO have produced a protocol “Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children via television and the Internet” to help countries in the European Region gather data in a way that will support policy changes.
Most data on the prevalence of food and beverage marketing come from high-income, English-speaking countries,
specifically Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. They show that the marketing of HFSS foods (high in saturated fats, salt and/or sugar) to children is highly prevalent, actively uses persuasive techniques likely to appeal to children and is present across multiple media, including broadcast television and social media online.
Continued monitoring is needed in these countries, to ensure that up-to-date evidence is available to inform and strengthen policy and that policies are adequately evaluated.
More data are urgently needed from other countries, however, to support the domestic policy-making process and to build a more representative global picture of food-marketing activity.
Studies conducted in accordance with this protocol will interest policy-makers, academic researchers, public health
practitioners and advocacy groups in the WHO European Region and worldwide.
To download the protocol on Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children from the euro.who.int website

New school food guidelines aim for pleasant, sustainable dining

Health and education authorities in Finland have issued new guidelines for school food for the first time in a decade. They’re aimed at making lunches more nutritious – and more appealing to youngsters.

The new recommendations call for more emphasis on dining as a calm, pleasant communal experience and on the sustainability of food. This means more serious vegetarian alternatives, as well as more fish and “less red meat, more vegetables, fruit and berries”.

According to the new guidelines, pupils should be allowed at least half an hour to eat, and lunch should be served between around 11 am and noon. Since many schools’ cafeterias may be too cramped for comfortable eating, it is also suggested that schools could experiment with having pupils eat together in their own classrooms, for instance.

For more information about Finland’s new school food guidelines on the yle.fi website

Pilot projects on nutrition and physical activity

A pilot project or preparatory action is an initiative of an experimental nature designed to test the feasibility and usefulness of action. It is meant to try different approaches, develop evidence-based strategies to address a problem, identify good practices, and provide policy guidance for the benefit of possible future initiatives in a particular area of health and welfare.

A number of pilot projects have been funded by the EU that explore different approaches to nutrition and physical activity and these are now available for others to learn from.

For more information about pilot projects on nutrition and physical activity on the ec.europa.eu website