Today over 20 leading health, consumer and professional organisations, including the UK Health Forum, Children's Food Campaign and the Health Equalities Group, have released a joint statement in support of the government's Eatwell Guide, which has come in for some recent criticism since its publications in March 2016.
The Eatwell Guide is the official guide to health eating in the UK and aims to translate nutrient recommendations into simple information using language that the public can easily understand. Providing this clarity to the public is important because of the significant burden diet-related diseases place on families, the NHS and wider society. Conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, obesity, common cancers, chronic liver disease and tooth decay are highly prevalent.
Within the UK, 100% of 11-18 year olds are eating too much sugar and 84% of children are failing to meet the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable target. One in five children in England and 6 in 10 adults in the UK are overweight or obese. If current trends continue, 7 in 10 adults are forecast to be overweight or obese by 2035, leading to an extra £2.5 billion in NHS costs alone.
The NGO statement endorses the Eatwell Guide and welcomes its new messages on sustainability. It call on the government to put in place a comprehensive range of policies which can support people to meet the new guidelines. It also calls on government to commit to regularly revising the guidelines in line with new health and sustainability science and research.
Commenting on the statement, Robin Ireland, CEO, Health Equalities Group said:
"The Eatwell Guide was welcomes here in the North West as a very valuable resource in helping to address some of the sometimes conflicting and confusing advice currently prevalent around food and nutrition. The Guide is supporting us in our work around food policy and health eating amongst communities who often suffer the impact of poor diets."
The main improvement to support the achievement of current health sustainable diet-related population objectives include:
1. Separate section "Foods high in fat, sugar and salt" (HFSS):
- HFSS processed foods such as biscuits, crisps and cakes have been removed from the core foods recommended on the plate to a separate section with the text "eat less and in small amounts."
2. Inclusion of a new section on "Hydration":
- Promotes healthier drinks such as water, lower fat milks, sugar free drinks, tea and coffee,
- Recommends limiting consumption of fruit juices and smoothies to a maximum of 150ml per day due to the high levels of free sugars; also clarifies that these can only count as one portion of fruit and vegetable regardless of how much is consumed or contained in a serving
3. Section on "Dairy alternatives":
- Changes in line with objective modelling reflect the fact that the main sources of dairy should be lower in saturated fat, sugar and salt. Dairy products which are high in sugar and fat such as sweetened yoghurt, milks and smoothies should not form a core part of the diet.
- Recommends that lower fat and lower sugar dairy options are chosen.
4. Section on "Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins":
- The recommendation to eat more beans and pulses and eat less red meat and processed meat in recognition of overlapping health and sustainability concerns.
- Recommends consuming sustainably sourced fish
5. New strapline:
- The inclusion of sustainability consideration, "Use the Eatwell Guide to help you get a balance of healthier and more sustainable food."
6. News section on "Nutrition Labelling":
- Includes the government's recommended front of pack nutrition label which combines colour coding (traffic lights) with percentage reference intakes to help consumers choose packaged foods which are lower in saturated fat, salt and sugar when shopping.
These guidelines provide important clarifications and advice on what the population should be consuming for a healthy future and importantly starts to incorporate environmental sustainability. We note that a SACN review of the evidence for the relationship between saturated fats and health is underway.
The government should now put in place a comprehensive range of policies which can support people to meet these new guidelines and commit to revising them regularly in line with new health and sustainability science and research. We warmly welcome their development and remain committed to supporting their achievement.