Manufacturers indicate the ingredients on food labels. But from this information, the consumer most of the time can not conclude whether this food is harmful or healthy. Together with the project “20 Ideas for the Development of Russia”, we understand how labeling allows you to choose healthy foods. / RBC
In 2022, there will be more than 1 billion obese people on the planet, 39 million of them are children. These statistics were released by the World Health Organization (WHO). In Russia alone, five years ago, the number of people diagnosed with obesity reached 1.9 million, or 1.3% of the country’s total population. By the end of 2017, there were almost 451,000 overweight children and teens.
As the WHO notes, Elevated body mass index (BMI) is one of the main factors contributing to the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and even cancer. Reducing BMI and changing people to a balanced diet is the most important task for any country’s authorities, says Dmitry Davydov, author of “20 Ideas for Russia’s Development.” The main cause of obesity is energy imbalance, in which the calorie content of the diet exceeds the needs of the body. People become overweight when they buy foods high in calories, sugar and salt during a sedentary lifestyle.
In 2016, the World Health Assembly approved the Commission’s report on ending childhood obesity. The Commission, in particular, proposed the introduction of integrated programs that promote the consumption of healthy foods and reduce the consumption of unhealthy foods.
It does not help – and more often even more confusing – information on labels that consumers are advised to study. To draw a conclusion about the benefits or harms of a product, the buyer requires special knowledge in the field of chemistry and nutrition.
The problem becomes more obvious if we analyze the volume of consumption of the added sugar.
Added sugar are sugars and syrups that are added to foods during processing or processing. For example, lactose in milk or fructose in fruit is not. But yogurt or cake flavoring syrup is considered an added sugar.
According to WHO recommendations, the percentage of added sugar should not exceed 10% of a person’s daily caloric intake. It is believed that an adult should not consume more than 30 g of added sugar per day. This is about one and a half tablespoons. The rule for children from 7 to 10 years is 24 g, for children from 4 to 6 years – 19 g.
So, A can of 0.33 liters of soda has about 40 grams of added sugar. This is 10 g more than the daily standard for an adult and twice the normal for a child.
Apparentlyto calculate very sweet products, just read the label. But it is not so simple: the addition of sugar can be hidden under various names. Dextrose, agave nectar, levulose, invert syrup, candied fruit, maltodextrin are just some of the terms mentioned on all the same sugars.
To fight the cunning of marketers, forcing consumers to make unconscious purchases comes a new type of labeling – a bright and clear warning about the properties of the product.
The introduction of a labeling system on the front of the products was included in the list of recommendations of the WHO Committee on the Elimination of Childhood Obesity. The label is a legible warning for high content of certain ingredients, such as sugar or saturated fats. Many countries have successfully used such systems.
In France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and many other European countries, the Nutri-Score system (“Nutriskor”) operates. It is a sign of five Latin letters on a different background. The letter A in green means choice for proper nutrition, the letter E in red is not the best choice for purchase. There are also intermediate options under the letters B, C and D on a light green, yellow and orange background, respectively.
Black – the color of mourning, black traditionally means something negative. In Chile, this correlation table was used to convey a non-verbal message to the buyer at the emotional level:
“Many black polygons are a threat to health and perhaps life.”
In 2018, Rospotrebnadzor proposed the labeling of food called “Lantern”. It was an indication of the content of “critical substances in terms of healthy nutrition”, which the manufacturer applies to the packaging. By analogy with the British label, “Traffic Light” emphasizes the high content of one or more substances in red, medium in yellow and low in green.
But it is extremely difficult to find colored markers on products in the country’s supermarkets. This is due to the fact that the labeling proposed by Rospotrebnadzor is voluntary and many manufacturers decide not to favor the Svetofor system.
Insignificant publicity and resistance from manufacturers are slowing down the introduction of the label in Russia, necessary to save people from being overweight.
The author of “20 Ideas for Russia’s Development” is sure that that the introduction of mandatory labeling of foodstuffs should be implemented at the legislative level and apply to all manufacturers.
“Warning labels must be large and placed on the front of the package”, – clarifies Dmitry Davydov.
According to his intention, High levels of sugar, saturated fat, sodium and calories will be indicated by round black and white signs with text and a corresponding image.
Having provided legislative support for this proposal, The authorities achieved many results at the same time, notes Davydov. Shoppers will be more informed and will be able to easily distinguish between the healthiest foods and those that are best left on the supermarket shelf. Producers, in turn, will be motivated to produce healthier foods. The main effect of the changes, says Dmitry Davydov, will be to improve health and reduce mortality from obesity-related diseases.