The last two decades have had a huge impact on the rise of non- communicable diseases. Obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancers and type II diabetes rates have increased by enormous amounts. The non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are responsible for 60% (3 out of 5) deaths worldwide. In the UK, the NCDs are the leading cause of death. It is without a doubt that the health sectors around the world need to act effectively in order to reduce the non- communicable diseases that are costing a lot of money, mostly in all the developed countries.

Poor diet choices can lead to serious health conditions. For instance, chances to develop cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes might be from the omission to eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables on daily basis. Also, diets high in sugars and fats can contribute to the rise of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, consuming more than 6g of salt on daily basis can lead to hypertension, which is a major cause of stroke. In 2008, UK salt consumption was measured at 8.6g, 0.9g less in comparison to 2000.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, in the USA, about two decades ago, the food labeling developed, in order to help the public choose healthier options. In some countries, nutrition labeling has been set for many years, whereas other countries only recently developed the nutrition information on the food packages. In both cases, the nutrition information provision on the front of the pack becomes an increasingly important policy issue. For instance, in UK exists a voluntary scheme, with a combination of color coding (traffic light system) and text for its label.

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After many years, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the leading authority in America, proposed to update the labeling once more, in order to reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and non- communicable diseases. The plan is to take immediate effect by next year. The proposed label will give emphasis on important nutrients in the diet like calories, sugar and serving size, in order to identify how much the public really eats. It is an efficient way to deliver weight-related dietary messages to the public.

Moreover, this change will have a positive impact in specific target groups, apart from the general public, like for instance the people who want to lose weight, and prefer dieting through the ready to eat meals, rather than spending lots of time sweating in the gym.

Although surveys indicate that consumers are aware of nutrition labels information in packages, this does not mean that they are using them. The public needs to be able to understand and interpret correctly the information provided on food packages, thus they can be benefit from it.

The importance of food labelling

The public as a whole, in many countries, have changed their eating habits, by consuming bigger food and drink portions, since the introduction of serving sizes that took place for the first time in 1994. The new nutrition labeling will help the public to a better understanding of the nutritional value of foods, so it will be easier to make healthy choices. In many countries some changes took place in 2006, by the addition of information on trans fats in the packages. The result was the reduction of hydrogenated fats (main source of trans fats) in many of the products.

More specifically, the new food labeling will include the sugars that have been added to the product (although the current label  includes the amount of sugar, it does not differentiate between sugar that is present naturally and corn syrup, or other added substances). It will include updates of the serving size requirements to reflect the amounts of food the public consumes nowadays. This way, it will help to address obesity and the other non-communicable diseases by driving its attention to calories and serving sizes.

The current two column labels indicate the serving and package nutrition information. The new labels will introduce some important micronutrients, such as potassium and vitamin D, which some population groups are not getting enough amounts of, and put them in risk of the development of chronic diseases. Potassium helps to lower the blood pressure. On the other hand, vitamin D, the so-called sunlight vitamin, plays an important role in the health of the bones. Whereas, vitamins C and A will not be required anymore to be on the label, although manufacturers might include them on voluntary basis.

The amount of total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat will continue to be on the label. Emphasis will be given on calories, serving sizes and the percent of daily value, so it will be easier to address and treat the current public health problems, as already indicated above.

To conclude, according to each country’s circumstances, it is required to strengthen policies and health systems. Policies of the nutrition labeling need to take into consideration the consumers. The improvements in nutrition labeling could make small, but important contributions towards the selection of healthy foods for the population and the reduction of some of the non-communicable diseases by aiming for a better nutrition.

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