Stricter standards and broader scope for Nordic Keyhole label

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nordic keyhole symbol stricter, and broader

Related tags: Nutrition

Sweden’s National Food Association (NFA) has made changes to its Keyhole healthy eating label in light of new nutrition guidelines, meaning less salt, more wholemeal and a broader range of products that can bear the logo.

Sweden’s National Food Association (NFA) has made changes to its Keyhole healthy eating label in light of new nutrition guidelines, meaning less salt, more wholemeal and a broader range of products that can bear the logo.

The NFA has lowered the amount of salt that products in all categories can contain if they are to bear the Keyhole symbol, with meat and fish products included in the system for the first time.

Dietitian at the NFA Anette Jansson told FoodNavigator: "Meat and meat products contribute to a large portion of our total salt intake, and therefore it is very positive that there is now a salt requirement for this group."

The recommendations for fat content have also been more finely tuned for yoghurts, margarines and spreads. Overall permitted content has been raised but the products must contain a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats to saturated fats. Jansson said it's not the amount of fat that is important but the type.

The logo will apply to specialist foods such as gluten- and lactose-free products, and extended to include ready-made side dishes.

The changes come in response to new scientific research from the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR).

A flexible and positive system

 “The Keyhole system is based on the idea of letting consumers choose the best product available to them to buy in a given category. That is why there is no fixed minimum sugar, salt or fat content but rather the ‘best in the bread category’ or the ‘best in the milk category,’” ​said Jansson.

Unlike other healthy eating label guides, such as the UK’s traffic light system which negatively classifies certain products as being unhealthy, the Keyhole system is positive. The result is that manufacturers benefit from the positive associations of the symbol and are therefore encouraged to bring their products in line with NNR guidelines. Last October the European Commission opened litigation proceedings against the UK for its traffic light label, which it says creates "negative inference on products having the red light."

Working with the industry

The NFA’s changes come after a two-year review during which food manufacturers were kept in constant dialogue.

When asked whether this dialogue could limit the extent to which the Keyhole system ensured the health interests of consumers remained top priority – rather than industry interests – Jansson explained that the success of the Keyhole system was that it was practical and workable, giving all actors involved a voice.

“To some extent it can be limiting, but we have to work with the industry. It’s a balance between satisfying our nutrition criteria, what the manufacturers can make and, of course, what the consumers want to eat and buy.”

The keyhole labelling system, introduced in Sweden in 1989, is now in use in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. The proposed changes were negotiated by the food authorities of all four countries before being finalised.

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