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Potential impact of the Choices Programme on nutrient intakes in the Dutch population

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In May 2006, the Choices Programme was launched in The Netherlands – products can qualify for a health stamp by meeting pre-set nutritional criteria. Currently, more than 120 partners in food manufacturing, retail and catering have joined the initiative. There is an increasing recognition and appreciation of the health stamp by consumers. Moreover, the initiative has given a clear incentive to participating companies to reformulate products to give them a healthier profile. The objective of the present study is to assess the potential effect on nutrient intakes in the Dutch population after replacing normally consumed foods in diets with foods that are eligible to carry a Choices stamp.

Usual nutrient intakes were calculated using deterministic modelling with the Monte Carlo risk assessment model. Inputs for the modelling were food intakes (Dutch Food Consumption Survey 2003) and composition of foods from the Dutch food composition database. For a selection of nutrients, three scenarios were calculated and compared: (1) nutrient intakes ‘as measured’, based on the original Dutch Food Consumption Survey data; (2) replacement of all non-complying foods, where possible, with a food complying with the Choices criteria; and, because this could lead to a decreased energy intake, (3) same as (2) but nutrient intakes corrected for the difference in energy content between the original and the replacement food.

Calculations of usual intake distributions showed that energy intakes were reduced by 15% by replacing normally consumed foods with foods carrying the Choices stamp. Intakes of nutrients with a maximal intake limit were also reduced (between −23% for sodium and −63% for trans fatty acids). Intakes of nutrients with a minimal intake limit increased (between +5% for folic acid and +28% for fibre), except for carbohydrate (−16%) and unsaturated fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids −1% and monounsaturated fatty acids −28%). When the data were corrected for energy intake, the difference was still apparent, but smaller for the nutrients with maximal intake limits and larger for most of the nutrients with minimal intake limits, except for carbohydrate and unsaturated fatty acids.

From the results, it can be concluded, based on data from the Dutch Food Consumption Survey 2003, that replacing normally consumed foods in the diet with foods that carry the Choices health stamp can potentially lead to substantial improvements in nutrient intakes. These results demonstrate the potential positive impact of the Choices Programme on nutrient intakes in the Dutch population.
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Keywords: labelling; nutrient intake modelling; nutrient profiling; reformulation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Wageningen UR – Institute of Food Safety, Wageningen, The Netherlands 2: Unilever R&D Vlaardingen, Vlaardingen, The Netherlands; 3: Institute for Health Sciences, Free University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands;

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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