A healthy change: Sweden allows food firms to use dietary advice on labels

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

This breakfast cereal's packet could now tell consumers: 'Switch to wholegrain!' - as long as it doesn't contain too much sugar. Photo: iStock
This breakfast cereal's packet could now tell consumers: 'Switch to wholegrain!' - as long as it doesn't contain too much sugar. Photo: iStock

Related tags: Nutrition

Food companies may now add national dietary guidelines to their products packaging and marketing material in order to help boost healthy eating, Livsmedelverket, Sweden’s National Food Agency (NFA), has decided.

NFA nutritionist Åsa Brugård Konde said examples could include: "Eat lots of fruit, vegetables and berries!", "Switch to wholemeal!" or "Choose high fibre vegetables such as root vegetables, cabbage and cauliflower."

Announced last week, the new rules are effective immediately and will mostly affect food products that already bear a Keyhole logo – Sweden’s healthy

keyhole
© NFA

eating scheme.

Keyhole products can automatically add the guidelines if they wish as they already adhere to national dietary guidance, but other products are also eligible. Authorisations for non-Keyhole products will be made on a case-by-case basis.

NFA dietitian Anette Jansson said the aim is to increase awareness of what constitutes good eating habits and help people make healthy choices. 

“This will be a way to spread the dietary advice to many more than what we can do today,” ​she said.

Must not mislead

However, certain conditions must be respected. The addition of dietary guidelines must not mislead consumers over the product’s healthiness nor can it imply the product has been individually endorsed by the NFA.

“We want and need to be completely independent from the food companies,”​ Brugård Konde told FoodNavigator.

Dietary advice must also be accurately worded to avoid changing the meaning.

Breakfast_cereal_FruityO_FruitLoops_iStock
© iStock

An example of a misleading addition would be a breakfast cereal that is high in whole grains but also high in sugar whose packaging states: ‘NFA dietary advice says: ‘Switch to whole grains!’’

“This is true [for] the product's usefulness in terms of whole grains, but the product in its entirety is not useful because of the large the amount of sugar. The dietary advice on whole grains would then risk misleading the consumer,” ​reads the guidance in Swedish.

Similarly, a yoghurt that is flavoured with a small amount of berries would not be able to add NFA dietary advice about the importance of eating fruit and berries due to the small amount of fruit in the final product.

The NFA said there is “certainly a risk of abuse”​ of not using the guidelines correctly but it nevertheless wants to give manufacturers the possibility to use its advice to promote healthy eating.

Trade groups, the Swedish Food Federation (Livsmedelsforetagen) and the Swedish Trade Federation (Svenskhandel) are preparing guidelines for their members on how to implement the changes.

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