Dubai, UAE; 30 January 2020:In an effort to dispel health and nutrition misconceptions among consumers, European and local health and nutrition experts discussed the importance of informative Front-of-Pack labelling (FoPL) of consumer goods in a conference hosted by the Italian Embassy in the UAE, in collaboration with the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA),at the Sofitel Hotel, Downtown Dubai.
Titled ‘Positive Nutrition Education: the importance of informative labelling’, and attended by UAE government representatives, dignitaries, diplomats, regulatory officials, media representatives, nutrition specialists, and industry professionals,the conference aimed to debunk myths about the relation between food consumptions and non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Through a series of expert remarks and a panel discussion moderated by regional nutrition expert Lama Al Naeli, founder and regional director of Wellness by Design, experts highlighted the effectiveness of the Italian labelling system, which clearly explains to consumer the daily allowance of different foods and ingredients, compared to the maximum daily allowance values.
Speaking at the conference was His Excellency Nicola Lener, the ambassador of Italy to the UAE, who highlighted thequality of the dialogue between the Italian and UAE authorities on food labelling, stressing the importance of taking a science-based approach. In addition to emphasizing the need to present food consumers with the correct nutritional information to avoid the contradictory nature of some systems.
Among the speakers was also His Excellency Abdulla Al Maeeni, the director general of ESMA. In his remarks, he highlighted that in September of 2019 the UAE has approved a Standard for the labelling of packed processed food products.
This is currently a voluntary standard that includes a traffic-light supplemental nutritional information labelling system to be displayed on the package of processed foods for sale in UAE, he explained.
Currently, in the UAE, obesity is at 68% and we have a national zero obesity objective for 2071. Improving healthy diet choices will also improve the happiness index, life expectancy, decrease cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, as well as improve the food security index, His Excellency Al Maeeni explained.
Food labelling policy should set out the role of food labelling regulation in order to support public health objectives and preventative health strategies. His Excellency confirmed that this national project will protect the public health and safety, provide information to help consumers make informed choices about the foods they buy, and prevent misleading and deceptive labelling.
Dr. Marco Silano, senior investigator and head of the Unit of Human Nutrition and Health at the Department of Food Safety at the Italian National Institute of Health highlighted the importance of science-based FoPL systems, such as the one implemented in Italy.
Italy’s FoPL scheme, entitled NutrInform Battery, clearly and visually informs consumers about the level of energy, salt, fats, and sugar intakesassimilated with a portion of a food product, helping consumer base their dietary choices on their daily dietary allowance, Silano explained. Adding that the NutrInform Battery, which is designed to look like mobile phone battery level indicator, is simple to understand andhas been extensively tested with consumers and has produced excellent resultsas to the consumers’ comprehension of the nutritional message.
Also speaking at the conference was Italian health expert Dr. Andrea Poli, president of NFI- Nutrition Foundation of Italy andauthor of 70 PubMed referenced publications, who highlighted that the Mediterranean and traditional diets are models that take into account cultural aspects and social coexistence, which together with a positive diet and physical activity promote a healthy lifestyle.
In addition, Dr. Poli addressed “Positive Nutrition” concepts, which measure a healthy diet not by differentiating between bad and good foods, but insteadfocusing among others on the promotion of beneficial dietary components, encouraging healthy lifestyle and nutritional education.
Also speaking at the conference was Dr. Yousef Alsaadi,director of Conformity Affairs Department at ESMA and the first Emirati Certified Food Scientist (CFS), whoexplained that If you see a red color on the front of the pack, it does not mean that you should not or cannot eat it, but that you should try to keep an eye on how often you choose these foods, or how much of them you eat. A diet with fewer reds can help you achieve a healthier diet.
Adding, if you see the color amber, these foods are neither high nor low for that nutrient. Foods with ambers help you balance your diet; just try to include a few green ones too. Otherwise the green color means that the food is low in that specific nutrient that you may wish to avoid overconsuming to improve your diet.
The more green consumers intake, the healthier the choice, but you don’t have to eat only green color coded foods, including a few ambers and reds can be part of your balanced diet and will help you to get all the beneficial nutrients you need.
Following the individual remarks, a panel discussion took place betweenDr. Marco Silano, Dr. Yousef Alsaadi, and Dr. AndreaPoliconcluded that education is key to curb confusion and prevent diseases, while a healthy diet andlifestyle are the most effective strategy to reduce the prevalence of NCDs in the UAE.
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