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Norwegian food industry agrees to aid government in promoting healthy food

By Louis Gore-Langton , 13-Dec-2016
Last updated on 14-Dec-2016 at 11:13 GMT2016-12-14T11:13:58Z

©iStock
©iStock

A coalition of major food industry bodies have made a pact with the Norwegian government to help improve public health by reducing high fat, sugary and salty foods (HFFS).

A total of 11 groups from the Norwegian food industry signed the agreement, including industry associations and suppliers such as Nestlé.

Initiated by the Food and Drink Europe’s Norwegian arm (FHO)  and supported by minister for health and care services Bent Høie, the coalition will aim to meet a set of strict targets regarding reduction of HFFS levels per person per day.

The central goals are:

  • To cut added sugar intake (sugars not naturally occurring in foods) by 13% per person per day by 2021.
  • To reduce saturated fat consumption by 1% of total energy intake before 2018.
  • To drop the level of salt intake per person by 15% by 2018 and 30% by 2025
  • To exponentially increase the public intake of healthy foods like fruit and vegetables.

These standards are higher than those set by the EU.

Petter Haas Brubakk, director general of the FHO, said:

“We saw a possibility to achieve more by taking a more holistic approach to the issue and collect different and individual measures in under one umbrella initiative... Our goal is to have at least business accounting for 90%. of the Norwegian food- and drink industry and the grocery retail sector to commit to the agreement.”

The coalition will also create subsidiary agreements with the intention of bringing industry groups not yet part of the official agreement further toward the agreements aims.

Vladimir Wendl, manager of Nestlé Norway, told FoodNavigator the first such accomplishment has been the creation of the Salt Partnership, to which 60 food companies signed and agreed to help reduce salt levels.

Competition – helping or hindering?

In 2014 NCDs caused 65% of the deaths in Norway. Unhealthy diets are among the main causes of illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity. ©iStock

Wendl said “Reaching ambitious goals is never easy. The agreement is also voluntary, which means that not all players in the market will choose to join in. From a competitive standpoint, this can be a challenge.” 

For those choosing to join the movement though, a new arena of competition will open.

Innovations such as Nestlé’s recent secret method for reducing sugar content in confectionary products by 40% would hugely facilitate efforts to reach the targets, but as a branded and undisclosed process it is also a good example of where competition can stifle progress.

However, Brubbak said the FHO believed “Competition will drive the agenda for more healthy diets. Reformulation of existing products, product innovations, packaging and market will be import action areas for the food and drink producers.”

Regardless of how competition will affect the process, Brubbak and those supporting the agreement in Finnish parliament believe control of HFFS foods to be of prime importance.

"Non-communicable diseases are a growing problem...
Causing premature deaths, reducing life expectancy and quality for those who get ill, and imposing enormous costs for the society"

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