Can labeling of products improve children’s health in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU)?
17 November 2022
WHO meeting in Armenia presented better policies to improve diets.
Sugary drinks and foods high in saturated fat, salt and/or free sugars that are being aggressively marketed to children are a threat to people’s health - spurring people across the Region to unhealthy diets. An unhealthy diet is one of the main risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. However, many consumers don’t have enough information about these risks and deserve to know what is in the products they buy and feed to their children.
Recognizing the importance of addressing this issue, WHO/Europe held a Subregional capacity-building workshop on front-of-pack nutrition labelling and marketing of unhealthy products aimed at children and adolescents on 17-18 November in Yerevan, Armenia.
The EAEU decision makers participated in the event to discuss the most effective evidence-based policies to improve diets in EAEU countries (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russian Federation).
Improving diets: what policies work?
“One of the priorities of the Ministry of Health is the promotion of a healthy nutrition environment, as well as the development of strategic priorities aimed at regulating the marketing of unhealthy food among children, promoting healthy nutrition among the population, as well as providing access to information for the population on the quantity of added sugar, salt and saturated fat that are part of the composition of food”, said First Deputy Minister of Health Lena Nanushyan.
“The latest WHO data shows that still one in three children live with overweight or obesity”, said Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, a.i. Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of NCDs that produced the report. “We urgently need better policies that can help us to reverse current childhood obesity trends by improving diets and restricting marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages”.
The meeting in Yerevan was focused on two types of policies known to be effective for improving diets for the benefit of people’s health. EAEU countries expressed interest in adapting the following WHO-recommended measures to their national context:
1. Front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FOPL)
When consumers buy food or beverage, they have the right to know how healthy these products are. Clear front-of-pack labels that give a brief overview of the nutritional content of foods should help people to make healthier food choices.
Information on the package front is easier to understand than nutritional information on the reverse label, which can overwhelm consumers and might be misunderstood.
While back-of-pack labels are mandatory in most countries of the WHO European Region, FOPL is often only recommended, and therefore not always implemented.
2. Restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children
There is unequivocal evidence that the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages high in saturated fat, salt and/or free sugars (HFSS foods) influences childhood obesity.
WHO has explicitly called on Member States to introduce comprehensive restrictions on the marketing of HFSS foods to children in all media, including television and digital, and progressively close any existing regulatory loopholes.
National Professional Officer, Risk Communication and Community Engagement