WHO Europe has just launched a nutrient profile model tool intended to support Member States when developing and implementing policies to restrict food marketing to children.
Nutrient profiling is “the science of classifying or ranking foods according to their nutritional composition for reasons related to preventing disease and promoting health”. Nutrient profiling has been recognized by WHO as a useful tool for the implementation of restrictions on the marketing of foods to children. Nutrient profiling provides a means of differentiating between foods and non-alcoholic beverages (henceforth “foods”) that are more likely to be part of a healthy diet from those that are less likely (notably those foods that may contribute to excess consumption of energy, saturated fats, trans fats, sugar or salt). Nutrient profiling is a tool to categorize foods, not diets, but can be used through policy to improve the overall nutritional quality of diets.
A number of existing models were considered for use and adaptation at a European level. After consideration, it was decided to base the European nutrient profile model on two existing models: the Norwegian model developed by the Norwegian government and adapted by industry with minor changes for voluntary restrictions in Norway, and the model developed by the Danish Forum of Responsible Food Marketing Communication, endorsed by the Danish government for voluntary restrictions in Denmark. The rationale for selecting the Danish and Norwegian models was that they are based on food categories rather than using a scoring system. Category-specific models are considered easier to adapt or modify than models based on scoring, which is an important consideration for a regional model that countries will be looking to use nationally.
The final model consists of a total of 17 food categories (with some subcategories) (Annex 1). Categories 1–7 and 9 in the Regional Office model are broadly the same as the eight categories in the Norwegian model. Categories 8, 11 and 13–17 are taken from the Danish model. Categories 10 and 12 are new categories that were added during the consultation process with countries. Descriptions of the food products included/not included within the food categories were taken from both models and supplemented with further examples. The list is not exhaustive and may be added to when used nationally.
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