The Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII) report is published as healthy eating becomes an increasingly political issue with government pressure being exerted on industry to step up healthy eating initiatives.
The new report underlines the work that the Irish industry is doing to promote healthy eating and lifestyles with regards to formulation, choice and marketing.
FDII head of consumer foods Shane Dempsey said: “Food companies have moved fast and invested heavily in response to consumer preferences for healthy options.
“For example, many products have been reformulated to remove additives and salt, thereby expanding the choice of healthy products.”
Initiatives such as the Food Standards Authority Ireland (FSAI) ‘reduce salt’ campaign have made a measurable difference, said the FDII. The aim of the programme was to reduce daily salt intake in Ireland from 10g in 2006 to 6g by 2010. In the latest update average consumption in 2008 had dropped to 8-8.5g per day, which is more or less in line with the 2010 goal.
FDII said the key to the success of such initiatives is wide participation from food companies, public health bodies and industry associations.
Healthy eating does not just involve removal or reduction of ingredients like salt, sugar and fat but also the inclusion and addition of certain ingredients.
FDII said the industry has made healthy progress in this regard. As an illustration it cited efforts made by food companies to fortify products with folic acid and vitamin D after an Irish Universities Nutritional Alliance study found inadequate levels of certain vitamins and minerals in the Irish diet.
Making products healthier is just one of many strategies being pursued to encourage healthy eating, added the FDII report. Education is crucial and involves informing consumers about healthy eating, food ingredients and exercise.
“Increasingly, food companies provide Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) labels to inform consumers,” said Dempsey. “In addition, many companies have adopted ethical marketing guidelines and provide sponsorship support for a range of healthy activities across Ireland.”
Recent initiatives to encourage healthy lifestyles include support for the GAA U-21 football championship and the Ladies Mini-Marathon.