I´ m on my way to work and I hear an ad for a soft drink on the radio; during my break I see that my favourite singer encourages me to try it on social netwroks, he tells me it´ s great!; in the afternoon I go to the supermarket and I find a promotion of that soft drink which I can try it for free and there is also a 3X2 promotion; at night I´ m watching a series with my family and I see how the main character drinks that same soft drink with the brand clearly visible and shows an incredible satisfaction after drinking it… where is the limit between advertising and influence?
I am an adult with critical sense who can make the decision to consume a product or not, but… what about a child? Can we consider that children are free to make healthy choices taking into account all the advertising environment that surrounds us?
In Spain, 40.6% of children between 6 and 9 years of age suffer from overweight and obesity1, alarming figures similar to those of other countries such as United States or Mexico. The prevalence of childhood obesity in Spain is among the highest in Europe according to the WHO.
Today´ s lifestyle has changed drastically in recent decades and is believed to be responsible for the increase in overweight and obesity in all age groups and especially in childhood: children now consume more fast food and sugary drinks, eat away from home more often and spend less time eating as a family than previous generations. In addition, processed foods are more accessible than ever and are available in larger portions. Moreover, television and Internet use have led to a more inactive and sedentary lifestyle, as well as greater exposure to the marketing of products high in fat, sugar and/or salt (known as HFSS).
It is clear that to reverse this high prevalence of overweight and obesity in children, there is no single solution but it must be a set of actions aimed at reducing sedentary lifestyles and increasing energy expenditure in addition to improving consumption decisions towards healthier products, but, I ask again the question from before, can we expect a child to make healthy consumption decisions when in their daily life they have so many impacts of unhealthy products specifically aimed at children? According to a study by the OCU (Consumers and Users Organization), nine out of ten food advertisements aimed at children are for products with an unhealthy nutritional profile2 : cookies, breakfast cereals, industrial pastries, chocolates, enregy drinks. And many of them are advertised by influential characters or cartoons, accompanied by promotional gifts or collectible stickers that encourage repeat purchases and capture the interest of children, or endorsed by certain health associations.
In terms of advertising, there is some consensus3 that until the age of five, children are incapable of perceiving the differences betweent programming and advertisements, or that they do not begin to identify a persuasive interest in advertising until they are about eight years old. Not even after the age of eight it is guaranteed that minors will be able to identify messages as biased, since, as adults know, they tend to emphasize the positive aspects and ignore the negative aspects of the product.
In Spain, the PAOS Code was signed in 2005 with the aim of establishing a set of rules to regulate advertising and promotional activities aimed at children and to guide companies to comply with it. However, reality shows that children continue to be the target of many unhealthy food advertising and the figures for overweight and obesity continue to be alarming.
For this reason, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs intends to approve a Royal Decree regulating the broadcasting of unhealthy food and beverage advertising when it is aimed at children and adolescents up to 16 years of age.
The regulation that will start to be applied in this 2022 year will affect five categories of products that will not be allowed to advertise to children under 16 regardless of the nutrient content: chocolate and sugar confectionery products, energy bars and sweet toppings and desserts; pastry and biscuit products; juices; energy drinks and ice creams. For the rest of the product categories, a limit of nutrient content per 100 grams is established. In this case, they may be advertised as long as total and saturated fats, total and added sugar and salt levels remain below the limits established for each product. These limits correspond to the nutritional profiles established by the World Health Organization.
Advertising on television, radio, cinema and internet, social networks, websites or mobile apps will be regulated and there will be limitations on advertising in print media. There will be reinforced protection schedules in generalist television channels set from Monday to Friday, between 08:00 and 09:00 in the morning and from 17:00 to 20:00 hours in the afternoon, and on Saturdays and Sundays, between 09:00 and 12:00 hours, while the prohibition in children´ s television channels will be permanent.
The intention of Royal Decree is in line with the recommendations of the European Commission in its Action Plan against Childhood Obesity and which is already applied in countries such as Norway, Portugal or the United Kingdom. In 2017, the European Commission published a report on the exposure of children to HFSS food advertising and marketing4. Some of the conclusions of this study were:
64% of food and beverage advertisements for children under 18 were for HFSS products.
A child under the age of 12 may be exposed to a total of 732 HFSS ads in a month.
80% of online HFSS ads are advertised on YouTube and 20% on traditional web pages
The most promoted category is sweet snacks.
Children see approximately 10 times more HFSS ads than health food ads in Romania, 6 times more in Sweden and 3.5 times more in Lithuania and Italy.
At the food industry level, there are also initiatives to adapt and improve this situation. This is the case of the EU Pledge initiative that promotes among its members the commitment, by January 1, 2022, in relation to the restrictions on the marketing of HFSS products, either not to advertise any food and beverage products aimed at children under 13 years of age, or only to advertise products that meet the EU Pledge nutritional criteria. The EU Pledge is currently adhered to by 23 companies that account for 80% of advertising expenditure in the EU.
The need for a regulation that regulates the advertising and promotion of unhealthy foods through all media that reach the child population is a reality. It is not only a matter of placing limits on food choices that can lead to health damage, but also of limiting the influence, incitement or suggestion of products in an unfair way, hiding their harmful condition, especially when the consumer cannot reasonably identify it.
The food industry also has a fundamental role in this task, both at the level of advertising regulation, as well as in the reformulation of existing products and in the research of other healthy and attractive options for children. From CARTIF, we continuosly collaborate with the food industry for this purpose,as in the projects PROBIOMIC (Design of new cereal products with probiotics adapted to optimal child nutrition through omic technologies) or TOLERA (Development of more effective and safer ingredients and foods, aimed at people with food allergies and intolerances), among others.
April 7 is World Health Day. It is paradoxical that this year we will celebrate it confined due to a global pandemic. However, although #Istayhome, life goes on and we cannot let our guard down when it comes to health.
Each of us associates the fact of being at home with different habits: some to tranquillity and rest, others to domestic tasks, others to family. Whatever your situation, there are no excuses to do it in a healthy and active way.
Let’s put ourselves in situation with some data from the 2019 health profile in Spain published by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development):
Spain is the EU country with the highest life expectancy: 83.4 years in 2017, which is 2.5 years above the EU average. Spaniards today can expect to live an additional 21.5 years after reaching the age of 65, 1.5 years more than the EU average. This increase in life expectancy was mainly caused by a considerable reduction in mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases, although mortality from Alzheimer’s disease increased as a consequence of the increase in life expectancy.
Spain has some of the lowest mortality rates from preventable and treatable causes, indicating that public health and healthcare interventions are, in some cases, effective. However, much remains to be done as estimates suggest that more than a third of deaths in Spain can be attributed to risk factors associated with behavioural habits, including tobacco use, poor diet, alcohol consumption and sedentary lifestyle (see figure).
In the case of smoking, an anti-smoking law was adopted in 2005 and was strengthened in 2010. The 2010 law strengthened the rules on the retail and advertising of tobacco products; increased protection for minors and non-smokers by expanding smoke-free zones to all public places; and promoted the application of smoking cessation programs, especially in primary care. At the same time, taxes on cigarettes were increased, by 3% per pack of cigarettes in 2013 and by 2.5% more in 2017, along with a 6.8% increase in taxes on rolling tobacco. All these measures have contributed to the fact that smoking rates have decreased in the last fifteen years. However, more than one in five Spanish adults (22%) continued to smoke daily in 2017, representing a higher proportion than the EU average (19%).
Regarding overweight and obesity, the data is even more alarming. In 2005, the NAOS Strategy, managed by the Spanish Agency for Consumption, Food Safety and Nutrition, aimed to curb the increase in obesity in the Spanish population. This was reinforced by the Food Safety and Nutrition Law adopted in 2011, also with the aim of reducing overweight and obesity in children, prohibiting foods and beverages with a high content of saturated fatty acids, salt and sugar in schools and, more broadly, tightening the regulations on children’s menus. Recently, work has been carried out to establish a set of indicators that allow evaluating progress in their application and for the execution of health promotion activities in the area of nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention (AECOSAN, 2019). In 2018, the Ministry of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare announced new measures to reinforce the NAOS Strategy and, among them, an initiative on a new labelling on the front of packages using the Nutriscore model. Using an easy-to-understand colour code (based on a “traffic light” approach), this initiative aims to provide citizens with more accurate information on the nutritional quality of food, although this measure has not yet been applied. In early 2019, the Ministry also signed an agreement with almost four hundred food companies that committed to reducing the content of saturated fatty acids, salt and added sugars in their products. However, the effects so far seem modest. In fact, the obesity rate has increased among adults, which may hinder progress in reducing cardiovascular mortality and other related causes of death: one in six Spaniards suffered from obesity in 2017 (17%), a increase compared to the figure of one in eight in 2001, also above the EU average (15%). This increase is related to poor physical activity among adults, as well as unhealthy nutritional habits: only about 35% of adults reported eating at least one vegetable a day. The same situation is found in the child-youth population. According to the PASOS study (2019), 14.2% of the child-youth population is overweight and obese as measured by BMI and 24.5% have abdominal obesity. The prevalence of childhood obesity has grown in the last two decades: 1.6% according to BMI and 8.3% according to abdominal obesity.
We cannot ignore the data. A healthy and active lifestyle contributes to our quality of life expectancy. Some basic recommendations:
Move, live an active life: go up the stairs, go to work on foot or by bike whenever possible, choose games that involve movement to do with your children, dance, etc.
Eat calmly: follow your feeling of satiety and not your emotions (avoid eating due to boredom, anxiety, etc.). Limit ultra-processed food (you can read further in the post: Realfood, fad or is it here to stay?). Include fruits and vegetables in all your intakes. Give priority to whole carbohydrates over refined ones. Vary the food every day. Eat quietly and if possible, in company.
Hydrate yourself regularly throughout the day.
Exercise daily: dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to the physical activity that you like the most and vary it.
Rest and sleep between 6 and 8 hours a day.
Spend time on activities you like: reading, walking, writing, dancing, painting, photography, movies, meditating, talking to someone who inspires you, etc.
Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits should be an ever-present motto in our lives, but it becomes essential in difficult situations like the one we are experiencing. It is at these times when initiatives like #AlimentActivos from FIAB (Federation of Food and Beverage Industries) take on special relevance. It is a website where they give us tricks and ideas, pose challenges for us and provide us with scientific data and information to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.
Do not forget that, through social networks, you can follow a multitude of profiles that inspire us in matters of healthy eating and cooking, physical exercise at home, how to maintain good mental health, as well as stay positive and relaxed.
#ZeroHunger is the motto for the World Food Day that is celebrated on October 16 leaded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) worldwide. #ZeroHunger is also part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Achieving #ZeroHunger is not only about feeding hungry people, but also about doing it in a healthy and sustainable way. Food safety in our times is not only a matter of quantity, but also of quality. Unhealthy diets have become the first risk factor for disease and death worldwide and that is why we need to reach the entire population a sufficient variety of safe, nutritious and affordable foods, while caring for the health of the planet on which we all depend. World Food Day asks us to take action in all sectors to reach #ZeroHunger, 100% nutrition.
But what is a healthy and sustainable diet? FAO itself determines that a healthy diet is one that provides nutritional needs to maintain an active life and reduce the risk of contracting diseases through the consumption of safe, nutritious and diverse foods. And a sustainable diet supports entrenched solutions to food production with a low level of greenhouse gas emissions and a moderate use of natural resources such as soil and water, while increasing food diversity for the future.
What is the current situation?
The high consumption of dishes rich in sugars, refined starches, fats and salt have become the basis of food for developed countries, limiting the consumption of traditional dishes made with vegetables, legumes, whole grains, etc. We cook less, move less and consume more prepared dishes. The result is that we are malnourished. Do you find it alarming? Don’t you think it’s for so much? Let’s see some figures:
Currently, there are already more people with obesity and overweight in the world than those who are hungry: almost 800 million people (672 adults and 124 children) in the world suffer from obesity and another 40 million children are overweight. However, it is estimated that there are about 820 million people who suffer from hunger (approximately one in nine).
Unhealthy diets along with sedentary lifestyles have overcome smoking as the main risk factor for disability and death in the world.
Approximately 2 billion euros are spent each year to treat health problems related to obesity.
These are some of the conclusions reached by FAO related to hunger and malnutrition but they are not the only ones. Our way of feeding ourselves is also having environmental consequences:
The environmental damage caused by the food system could increase from 50 to 90%, due to the higher consumption of processed foods, meat and other products of animal origin in low and middle income countries.
Of some 6,000 species of plants grown for food throughout the history of mankind, today only three species (wheat, corn and rice) supply almost 50 percent of our daily calories. We need to consume a wide variety of nutritious foods.
Climate change threatens to reduce both the quality and quantity of crops, reducing crops. Rising temperatures are also exacerbating water scarcity, changing the relationship between pests, plants and pathogens, and reducing marine resources.
The current food system – which includes farming, animal husbandry, processing, packaging and transportation – is responsible for 37% of the total greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions generated annually, and losses and food waste also collaborates with 8-10% of the total sum. Belén Blanco tells us in more detail in the post “Tell me what you eat… and I’ll tell you if it’s good for the planet”.
For all this, because they are realities, all together we must raise awareness of the problem of hunger, malnutrition, food waste, climate change, etc. FAO calls on all people to get involved in implementing some measure to achieve the #ZeroHunger.
Who are the actors involved in this change taking place? The answer is all. Modify the way of producing, supplying and consuming food. The involvement of the industry in limiting saturated and trans fats, added sugars and salt. Eliminate advertising and promotion in unhealthy foods and especially those aimed at children and adolescents. Implement educational programs on nutrition and health. Actions from all levels are necessary.
And I, as a consumer, what can I do? As a consumer, as a citizen, as a human being on this planet, you can. Think about how you consume, how you eat and act on your own, individual level and with the people around you. Here are a series of measures that can guide you:
World Food Day is not the only forum in which it strives to improve food security, but FAO also participates with WHO and other agencies in the implementation of the United Nations Decade of Nutrition Action (2016-2025). It aims to strengthen joint action to reduce hunger and improve nutrition worldwide and assist all countries in their specific commitments. The SOFI report is published annually to provide information on the progress made to eradicate hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition. The last one was published on July 15, 2019.
On World Food Day, FAO launches a strong message: we can end hunger and all forms of malnutrition to become the #ZeroHunger generation. But this will entail the joint action of all, from the commitment of each one of us in the change in the way we feed ourselves, to the cooperation between countries for an efficient transfer of technology, for example, through the correct decision-making of governments or by the involvement of private companies and the media.
Last July, EFSA published a protocol that sets out the strategy to follow for the collection of data that will be used for the development of a Scientific Opinion that establishes the maximum tolerable level of sugar intake. I know it could seem confusing, let me explain…
Tons of tweets and images often appear on social networks that show the amount of sugar that certain processed foods have. Associations such as sinazucar.org have been actively promoting it for some time. Thus, this topic is not new at all. The novelty is related to the publication by EFSA of a protocol that sets the strategy to follow in the collection of scientific data that will be carried out prior to the publication of the Scientific Opinion on the reference dietary level of intake of sugarsfor the European population that EFSA plans to publish.
This document will represent an update of the Scientific Opinion published in 2010 regarding reference dietary values for sugars, carbohydrates and fiber (EFSA NDA Panel, 2010a). With the data available up to 2010, there was no conclusive evidence linking an effect of sugars on micronutrient density, insulin response to glucose, body weight, type 2 diabetes or dental caries significant enough to establish limits of maximum tolerated intake, adequate intake or reference intake of sugars. After 2010, several organizations have published recommendations on the recommended intake of sugars; however, quite disparate among them. For example, the World Health Organization recommends reducing the consumption of free sugars in life. For both adults and children, the consumption of free sugars should be reduced to less than 10% of the total caloric intake. A reduction below 5% of the total caloric intake would produce additional health benefits. Now, EFSA intends to evaluate the scientific basis that has emerged from 2010 to the present and to check if there is enough new evidence to establish a reference dietary level.
This request to EFSA, which comes from the competent authorities in the field of nutrition and health of 5 European countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), will not only respond to the need to update the existing evidence but also will constitute an act of consensus of terms referring to the sugars present in food. Currently, each one calls, labels and understands the sugar content of food at free will, which makes it difficult to study the literature, label food and establish conclusions about the cause-effect relationship and recommendations for the population. Some companies only express the total sugar content in the nutritional labeling of their food, others consider that what is really important is to know the content in “added” sugars, while others demand consensus to label and make recommendations about “free” sugars. Do you know the difference between the three terms?
Total sugars: all mono and disaccharides that are part of a food, whatever its origin.
Added sugars: all mono and disaccharides that are not part of the food naturally but have been added during processing, whether by the manufacturer, the cook or consumers.
Free sugars: all mono and disaccharides except those that naturally form part of whole fruits or vegetables (whether intact, dried or cooked).
That is to say, all the added sugars are free sugars but not vice versa. The key difference between added sugars and free sugars is that the free sugars also contemplate the sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates; while the added sugars do not contemplate them. Sugars naturally occurring in whole fruits and vegetables are not included as free sugars since there is no evidence that they have an adverse effect on health. In other words, free sugars would be synonymous with total sugars in all foods except fruits and whole vegetables.
A practical case to help us clear up this mess, please! For example, the sugars naturally present in a carrot juice in brick would be considered as free sugars; while the sugars naturally present in baby carrots packed in a modified atmosphere ready to eat, would not be considered.
Currently in Europe, most companies label their sugars in the form of total sugars. The USA was the first country in 2016 to establish regulations to force the declaration of all added sugars in the labeling of all foods. On the other hand, the Canadian health agency recently published a document in which it proposes to label foods rich in sugars, saturated fats and sodium as “high food in …” In the case of sugars, Canadians propose this declaration to be included in all foods that contain free sugars (not only added), so that this rule also affects fruit and vegetable juices and purées; while only dairy and whole fruits and vegetables stay out of this mandatory declaration.
Needless to say that if this lack of consensus affects the good understanding among professionals and experts in nutrition, even more it will confuse consumers. So in addition to this task of matching key terms to establish recommendations for intake and common labeling standards, education and consumer communication campaigns on the interpretation of nutritional labeling of foods are also necessary.
From CARTIF, we are committed to the dissemination of consumer education on nutrition and food issues, so we will remain aware to the publication of the Scientific Opinion of EFSA and of course, we will inform you of its conclusions in a clear and understandable way.
Who has not practice “trashcooking” in his kitchen? Aren’t you? It is high time to start. Keep on reading to know how.
“Trashcooking” is the new concept to call the old law of “the food is not pulled” coming from our grandmothers or what today could be called “the circular economy of food” in any article of an R & D + i magazine. That is, reusing the leftovers of one meal to make another or take advantage of the remains of an ingredient to make a new recipe. Some easy examples are cannelloni or croquettes with the leftover meat of the stew, the puree with the vegetables that the child did not want to eat the night before or the colorful and sweet fruit salad made with the fruits about to spoil of the fruit bowl.
Currently, the “trashcooking” especially in vegetables, but also in low-priced fish and meat, is putting to the test the knowledge and techniques of the best chefs to take exquisite dishes in which everything is used and nothing is thrown away. This way of proceeding has increasing support both of the heavyweights of haute cuisine who bet on sustainability through creativity, as well as consumers.
This incredibly beneficial initiative for the environment, it would be much more if it began to become fashionable in all European households as up to 88 million tons of food are wasted every year in the EU. These figures are alarming when we value them on the total: 20% of the food produced in the EU ends up spoiling. Food is wasted during all phases of the food chain, from agricultural production to final consumption. However, it is in households (53%) and in the transformation process (19%) where the most food waste is produced.
On average, a European citizen throws away 173 kilos of food a year. With the Netherlands at the top of the list (541 kg of waste per inhabitant per year) and Slovenia as the country that best manages the use of food (72 kg of waste per inhabitant per year). Spain is below the average (135 Kg), in place 17 of the list of a total of 27 countries. However, there is still a long way to go in improving the management of food. (Eurobarometer and FAO data, 2010 estimates).
And it is not the accumulation of waste itself that is solely responsible for the damage to the environment, but that wasting food also supposes an unnecessary use of scarce resources such as land, water and energy. For every kilogram of food produced, 4.5 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) is thrown into the atmosphere.
Faced with this worrying situation, the European Parliament is proposing measures to reduce these 88 million tons of food waste by 30% by 2025 and by 50% by 2030. Among the proposals include facilitating food donations, allowing VAT exemptions, or to emphasize the need to put an end to consumer confusion between the labels of preferential consumption and the expiration date.
At CARTIF, we have been thinking about circular economy for years, not yet in your kitchen, but in the revaluation of the by-products of livestock, agriculture and industry and its use in the elaboration of other components of added valued that might be used in human, animal, cosmetic, energy generation, etc. Now it’s your turn, you’re in charge of practicing “trashcooking” in your kitchen and helping our environment.