Background

Background

Vision: In 2020, everybody in Finland can have a diet that is in accordance with the food based dietary guidelines.

Food is key to our health and wellbeing. A society where everybody is healthy and feels well is also doing well economically. Healthy dietary choices reduce the prevalence of overweight, obesity and many chronic diseases. They also help us to improve our lifestyles, ensure healthy workforce with high functional capacity and reduce the costs of health care.

Observing the dietary guidelines, reasonably sized portions, a varied diet and a positive attitude towards food enhance our health. Each of us is responsible for our own health but the opportunities or the lack of them in our living environment also have an impact on our lifestyles.

We must have the ability and the opportunities to make conscious choices helping us to remain healthy and to enhance our health. Nowadays, we can obtain information about food, nutrition and health from a broad range of different channels. Nevertheless, only a few of us adhere to the dietary guidelines in our daily diet. For this reason, we need joint measures that help us to make dietary choices that are good for our health.

 

Joint objectives for improving food product quality in the EU

 

The EU Roadmap for Action on Food Product Improvement published in 2016 provides a framework for improving the nutritional quality of our diet. People can only be expected to improve their diet if the healthy choice is the easy choice. Improving the nutritional quality of food products is a key factor in this process. In particular, reducing the content of salt, saturated fats and added sugar on the one hand, and increasing the intake of unsaturated fats, vegetables and fibre on the other, as well as having more reasonably sized portions would make it easier to observe the nutrition recommendations.

On the basis of this Roadmap, the EU Health Council adopted Conclusions on Food Product Improvement (reformulation) at its meeting in Malta in June 2016. The reformulation programme sets out joint targets for the reduction of salt, saturated fats and added sugars in food products. Achieving these targets requires close cooperation with all operators in the food chain (including the primary production, industry, retail trade and catering services) and administrative branches, consumer and public health organisations as well as the media. The nutrition commitment described in this document is the Finnish contribution to the reformulation programme. It is based on the joint initiative of the National Nutrition Council and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and has been prepared in collaboration with stakeholders in the sector.

To improve the dietary habits of the population, there is a need for a broad range of different products with a composition, pricing and availability that facilitate the achievement of the nutrition recommendations at population level. Improving the nutritional quality of food products is not enough; nutritional quality must also be considered in marketing, communications and in other operating practices. The Finnish nutrition recommendations and the criteria laid out for the Better choice Heart Symbol system provide a solid basis for the building of a good food environment supporting consumer choices.

All operators in the sector (such as the food industry, retail trade, public catering services, restaurants, cafes and the media) are jointly responsible for enhancing health by improving the nutritional quality of food products and by communicating about their products and nutrition in a responsible manner.

 

Better products for children - ending childhood obesity

 

Better implementation of dietary habits enhancing the health of children and young people is a national, EU and global objective. Dietary habits and preferences become established at an early age. For this reason, it is extremely important that the food products intended for children are of high nutritional quality. In order to reduce childhood obesity, children must be protected against the supply and marketing of food products that are of inadequate nutritional quality. The aim should also be to broaden the range of products supporting the implementation of the nutrition recommendations (especially snacks).

Read more: National and international programmes aimed at ending childhood obesity

National Obesity Programme 2012-2018: Lihavuus laskuun - Hyvinvointia ravinnosta ja liikunnasta (Wellbeing from healthy nutrition and physical activity).

EU Action Plan on Childhood Obesity 2014-2020 and WHO Ending Childhood Obesity, 2016