A new study has found that the adoption of front-of-pack nutrition warnings can help decrease obesity and cardiovascular disease in the Americas, including the Caribbean.
The study, by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), notes that the adoption of best practice front-of-pack nutrition labelling can also help reduce poor-nutrition related non-communicable diseases (NDCs), including type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers in the region.
The study, published in the Lancet Regional Health Americas, examined the evolution of these policies within the PAHO/World Health Organization Region of the Americas.
PAHO said improvements to front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FOPNL) included larger warning labels, contrasted background for better noticeability, and use of “excess” instead of “high” to improve understanding, and adoption of PAHO’s nutrient profile model “to better define nutrient thresholds”.
“FOPNL systems aim to aid a population’s understanding of nutritional content in a product, reduce consumption of ultra-processed and processed food products high in fats, sugars and/or salt, and ultimately help consumers make healthier choices,” PAHO said.
Co-author of the study and associate professor in the university’s School of Public Health, Dr Eric Crosbie, said “the progress of front-of-pack nutrition warning labels in the Americas illustrates that the diffusion of best practices in the region have been shown to improve the nutritional quality of purchases and have been associated with improved diet quality, which in turn is associated with reduced risk of NCDs.”
In the Americas, PAHO said all 35 member-states have discussed FOPNL, 30 countries have formally introduced FOPNL, eleven have adopted FOPNL and seven have implemented FOPNL.
“Front-of-pack nutrition labels have evolved in the Americas to provide the best options to populations,” said Dr Fabio Da Silva Gomes, co-author of the study and advisor of nutrition and physical activity at PAHO.
“The accumulated lessons and evidence have driven countries to reach regulatory excellence by adopting octagonal warning labels along with PAHO’s nutrient profile model to protect and promote healthy eating and public health,” he added.
According to PAHO, the study finds that improved FOPNL gradually expanded its presence in the region, “gaining momentum in the past few years and evolving to align with evidence and PAHO’s best-practice policies.”
Researchers recommended that governments still discussing and waiting to implement FOPNL “should follow such practices to improve the uptake and impact of the policy to help reduce poor-nutrition related NCDs in the Americas”.