Nutrition labels on yogurt ‘may not reflect true reformulation efforts’: FSAI

Findings show labelled nutritional values not always aligned with analysed nutrient content

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4 May 2021 | 0

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The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has published a new report evaluating the use of declared nutrition labels of yogurt in monitoring food reformulation sold on the Irish market.  According to the report, nutrition labels cannot be totally relied upon, as they may not reflect true food reformulation efforts. The findings of the study of 200 yogurts on the Irish market indicate that programmes relying on labelled nutrition information need to be ‘fact checked’ regularly. Reformulation of processed foods, including yogurts, is seen as offering a cost-effective opportunity to combat obesity which affects over half of the population in Ireland.

Under the ‘Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016 – 2025’, voluntary food industry reformulation targets for energy, saturated fat, sugar and salt are to be agreed by the Obesity Policy Implementation Oversight Group with progress reviewed regularly. The group was also tasked with developing a monitoring approach to measure progress towards achieving the agreed targets. The monitoring of food reformulation is a complex process that has been approached in different ways by different countries. A common approach is the use of declared nutrition labels to monitor nutrient content changes in foods over time.

The FSAI examined a cross section of yogurts to determine the accuracy of the nutrition labels in line with EC guideline nutrition labelling tolerances¹. Declared nutrient values on labels were mostly in line with the guidelines for total fat and saturated fat content. However, 17% (n=33) of yogurts were outside EC guideline nutrition labelling tolerances for sugar. While the analysed content was usually lower for sugar and saturated fat than the declared value, this was not the case for fat.

With obesity levels doubling in Ireland over the last 40 years, Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, FSAI stated that reducing fat and sugar in food products will positively contribute to a healthier population.

“Reformulation of foods is proven to have a positive impact on the quality of the diet therefore, it is essential that a true baseline is established, and progress is measured accurately to ensure that the roadmap and targets set out in the Government’s obesity policy and action plan  are being met and on time,” Dr Byrne said.

The recommendations in the report include:

  • when EC guideline nutrition labelling tolerances are accounted for, it is possible that declared nutrition labels may not reflect the true food reformulation efforts. This finding needs to be considered when developing a reformulation monitoring programme.
  • reformulation monitoring programmes relying on labelled nutrition information need to be ‘fact checked’ at regular intervals using a nutrition label verification method.
  • innovative food categories, such as yogurts, require regular monitoring to understand reformulation efforts in these food categories.
  • there are numerous factors which influence variations in labelled and analysed nutrient content of yogurts, and this requires further investigation with the food industry as it could affect reformulation monitoring.
  • additional food categories should be investigated using the same methodology in order to determine if the findings of this study apply to other food categories.

The full report entitled ‘Reformulation of yogurt: The accuracy of nutrition declaration on food labels for the monitoring of food reformulation in Ireland’ is available to view and download at https://www.fsai.ie/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=18514

 

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