Encouraging healthy eating habits: which policies work? The final
outcomes of the EATWELL research project
With obesity statistics on the rise, and our hectic
lifestyles and lack of time, as well as the temptation of ready meals, the
quality and quantity of food consumed by family members is receiving more and
more attention. COFACE is very concerned with healthy eating habits, and this
is why we were so interested to learn more about this issue from the outcomes
of the EATWELL research project.
The main aim of the project was to assess the
efficacy, cost-effectiveness and public acceptance of past public policy
interventions designed to improve dietary and health outcomes and assess the
acceptability of potential future policies, providing policy makers with
recommendations on ameliorating their public health strategies.
The recommendations concern two sets of policy
interventions: support to the general
public for informed choice
(education, information campaigns...) and changing the market environment
of products, advertising control, reformulation and other regulatory
A recurring recommendation called for more evidence
and research on many different policies to be able to carry out better impact
assessment. A lack of research on the
effects of advertising on children
is one example. As regards advertising
to children, COFACE has recently organised a seminar presenting its media
literacy tool Nutri-medias. On this occasion, Monique
Dagnaud from the CNRS presented her research on the
effects of advertising on children.
Other recommendations focused on specific policy
strategies. Measures supporting informed choice
have a small overall
positive effect but are rather cost-effective and are well accepted by the
public. Nutrition education
should definitely be
part of the school curricula and needs to be linked to complementary measures
such as healthy meals in schools and healthy food in vending machines. Nutrition labelling
was also identified as
key notably by the general public.
When looking at policies changing the market
environment, fiscal measures
(taxation on foods
identified as unhealthy and/or tax breaks for healthy foods), although
controversial, were deemed positive notably regarding their cost-effectiveness
(since they actually create revenue for the state) and especially because they
benefit the most vulnerable families
groups). Again, fiscal measures should
be tied to other measures targeting the disadvantaged consumers such as
providing them with food stamps or vouchers
for healthy food.
COFACE will keep following healthy nutrition policies
especially via it's participation in the EU Platform for action on diet,
physical activity and health.
For more information about the EATWELL project, please
For more information on COFACE's activities related to
nutrition and on Nutri-Médias see here
To consult Monique Dagnaud's work on children and
advertising, see here
As a member of the European Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health
, COFACE is duty bound to take a stand on health, nutrition and obesity issues. The family is a key learning environment, and early childhood is when habits are learned that are apt to become entrenched. It is also useful to develop a culinary education within the family.
The platform creates a forum for actors at European level who can commit their membership to engage in concrete actions designed to contain or reverse current trends to overweight and obesity.
In 2008 COFACE hosted a seminar on nutrition in Sofia to give member associations an awareness of the importance of the issue and the need for urgent action by raising awareness among families. The seminar Nutrition: a family matter
was a commitment given by COFACE through its membership of the Platform.
In 2009 COFACE hosted a seminar on Health Determinants
. The aim was to focus on lesser-known health determinants like well-being, stress, and personal empowerment to point up the importance of a much more educational approach to tackling health problems rather than the traditional "authoritarian” method of lecturing people about healthy lifestyles (diet and exercise).
In 2010 COFACE focused its activities on Nutritional labelling
. Despite the spread of voluntary food labelling by food companies, consumers continue to find it a confusing muddle. The plethora of different labelling schemes leaves consumers bewildered.
COFACE recommends that mandatory food labelling models be introduced at EU level based on product type and available space on both the front and back labels. Nevertheless, a certain flexibility should be permitted to take into account specificities of Member States as well as cultural references. See COFACE's positition on nutritional labelling below. You will also find more information on the FLABEL project page
In 2011-2012, COFACE will be fine-tuning its media education tool on advertising techniques
to help teachers devise courses on media literacy. The tool will be mainly focused on diet/nutrition-related TV advertising.
By providing teachers with a media education tool explaining how to analyse food adverts using practical examples, we will be providing them with resources for teaching media studies as part of the school curriculum, and so encourage children to look critically at advertising, and highlight the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Our media literacy tool will obviously also be usable by other educators - parents and associations like family organisations – who can set up their own "courses" on it.
Published on 21 Nov 2008
Updated on 03 Dec 2012