Making Healthier Food Choices Part 2 – Stop Signs

Prefer foods with fewer seals. And if they don’t have any, that is better

 

Australian consumers need clearer and more effective guidance for choosing healthy foods. In the context of national guidelines promoting wellbeing through food, physical activity and mental health, and to protect Chileans, and particularly children, from a growing supply of processed and ultra-processed food and beverages, Chile’s Ministry of Health (MOH) introduced front-of-package warning labels in 2016. The warnings help consumers identify products high in calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Early evidence suggests consumers are choosing products with fewer or no labels (personal communication C Corvalan).

The Chilean warning labels appear to be intuitive. Consumers quickly identify the distinctive label and know what it means. Nutrient limits based on the nutrient content of whole foods are calculated for two categories, solid foods and liquids, maximising consumers ability to compare products. Finally, labels are mandatory so all relevant products are labelled and the MOH, not manufacturers, determines which products are labelled. Also, the MOH has taken responsibility for defining what healthy means for Chileans (note the MOH name in the labels). They have also stood up to industry and supported the labels with awareness campaigns, building consumer trust.

In contrast to the complexities of Australia’s HSR system, Chile’s system is refreshingly simple. Moves by Canada, Israel, Peru, and Uruguay in a similar direction indicate that Australia should seriously consider introducing warning labels.

Read part one here.



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