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
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
In Europe, six of the seven biggest risk factors for premature death are directly linked to how we eat, drink and move. Moreover, rising levels of obesity across Europe is a great concern and can contribute to or aggravate many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.
More than 20 pan-European actions have been co-financed under the 2nd and 3rd EU Health Programmes, to exchange best practices, develop recommendations and improve standardized methods of data collection about nutrition and physical activity promotion.
At the end of 2016 a three day meeting was organised to share the results from more than 30 successful projects in the areas of nutrition and physical activity that can be carried out by policy makers, schools and the community.
To download the presentations on nutrition and physical activity on the ec.europa.eu website
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) are developing scientific guidance to enable identification of endocrine disruptors.
In 2016 the European Commission proposed science-based criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors in the context of EU legislation on pesticides and biocides. Discussions with Member States and experts are on-going and the criteria are expected to enter into force in 2017.
EFSA and ECHA, supported by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre, will produce an outline of the guidance that will be published and will provide information on the drafting and endorsement processes.
For more information on endocrine disruptors on the efsa.europa.eu website
Toxoplasmosis, caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, is estimated to affect more than 2 million people every year in the European Region. Although most people do not have symptoms, if a woman becomes infected just before or early in her pregnancy, it can have very serious health consequences for her child.
Toxoplasma can be acquired trans-placentally (mother to baby), through contact with infected soil or water, ingestion of contaminated food, or in very rare cases through blood/organ donation. It is assumed that half the cases come from eating contaminated food, such as inadequately cooked animal meat, or raw fruits and vegetables. Infection can also occur through contact with cat faeces in the environment, but cats only shed oocysts for a few weeks of their life, usually when kittens. Cats play an important role in the life cycle of the parasite, but they are not the main vehicle of infection.
To prevent food-borne toxoplasmosis, hand-washing and the use of clean water in food production and preparation is critical. Pregnant women should avoid undercooked meat. Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed with clean water.
For more information about Toxoplasmosis on the euro.who.int website
A pilot project is simply an experimental initiative 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 the area of nutrition and physical activity.
Boards of scientific experts have been set up from a variety of disciplines for each project to provide robust guidelines for the project intervention and to validate its tools including the project websites which reflect the views of the authors and not necessarily the official opinion of the Commission.
Examples of pilot projects include ‘My healthy family’; ‘ We love eating’ and ‘Taste booster’.
Read more about some pilot projects on healthy living on the ec.europa.eu website
Food marketing has been identified as an important contributor to the “obesogenic” environment, in which foods high in fats, salt and sugars are promoted extensively, are more visible and are cheaper and easier to obtain than healthy options. Food marketing has been shown consistently to influence children’s food preferences and choices, shape their dietary habits and increase their risk of becoming obese.
In the absence of effective regulation of digital media in many countries, children are increasingly exposed to persuasive, individually tailored marketing techniques through, for example, social media sites and “advergames”.
For the first time, researchers and health experts have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of digital marketing to children of foods high in fats, salt and sugars. The findings are published in a new report from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, ‘Tackling food marketing to children in a digital world: trans-disciplinary perspectives’, which calls for immediate action by policy-makers to recognize and address the growing issue of marketing targeted to children via digital media.
Download the report on Children and the Digital Marketing of Food from the euro.who.int website
On average across the EU, only 1 in 7 people aged 15 or over eats at least 5 portions of fruit or vegetables daily……while 1 in 3 have days when they do not eat any fruit or vegetables at all.
Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is considered an important element of a healthy and balanced diet yet in the EU slightly more than a third (34.4%) of the population aged 15 or over did not eat them on a daily basis in 2014, while less than 15% (14.1%) consumed at least 5 portions each day.
The daily consumption of fruit and vegetables differs widely between EU Member States, with those aged 15 or over not eating fruit and vegetables on a daily basis ranging from almost two-thirds of the population in Romania (65.1%) to slightly over 15% in Belgium (16.5%). On the other hand, the share of those eating at least 5 portions daily varied from a third in the United Kingdom (33.1%) to less than 5% in both Romania (3.5%) and Bulgaria (4.4%).
Different for men and for women, daily consumption of fruit and vegetables seems also to be influenced by the level of education. The higher the education level, the higher the share of the “5-a-day” population.
This proposed project will be applying for funding under the Interreg VA France (Channel) England programme which focuses on issues that affect the coastal areas of southern England and northern France. In both areas there are places currently deeply affected by the closure of a single dominant employer such as mining, ship-building and heavy industrial production. The local economy has found it hard to replace the jobs lost and the resulting deprivation shows in the levels of unemployment and general ill-health (mental and physical).
This project will initiate and encourage small-scale community involvement in growing, cooking and selling local produce, creating a healthier community and enabling small businesses to evolve and regenerate the local economy.
The Health and Europe Centre are the lead partners in this project and although it is in its very earliest stages, we already have a number of organisations interested in becoming partners, including Medway CIC, KCC, Plymouth Council, Kent CHFT and the Hadlow Group through the Betteshanger Community Park.