Thesis/Chile – Review and proposal for updating the Food Sanitary Regulations (Decree 977/96)

The prevalence of food allergies have experienced sensitivity in recent years. It is estimated that 2.5% of the population suffers from some type of food allergy, of which 90% corresponds to allergies caused by 8 internationally recognized foods, which are milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, crustaceans, fish, nuts and soy. In the present study, the different legislations related to food are reviewed, such as the Codex Alimentarius, Regulations of the European Union, Code of Federal Norms of the United States (CFR), Sanitary Regulations of Japan, Regulations of Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Chilean Sanitary Regulation (DTO 977/96) based on food labeling criteria with a focus on mentions and mandatory declarations, list of ingredients and precautionary labeling. Also, the legislations regarding formulas for infants with special nutrition are reviewed and compared, considering that allergy to cow’s milk protein, APVL, has a high prevalence in infants. Food labeling is essential to inform consumers of the presence of allergens in food. The words “contains…” and “may contain…” are defined differently in different regulations. An update of the sections of the Sanitary Regulation (DTO977/96) related to these mentions is proposed in order to save the food safety of all consumers. Due to the poor supervisory capacity of the SEREMI of health, a change in the regulation of “gluten-free” seals is suggested with the purpose of decongesting the inspection system of the Ministry of Health. Infant formulas are foods considered “for special mechanisms” in all the aforementioned regulations and standards, since infants are a high-risk group that requires special treatment in legislative terms. However, formulas for infants with special nutritional needs, specifically allergic infants, are not very well regulated in most laws and regulations. Consequently, a modification in the Sanitary Food Regulations (DTO 977/96) is recommended to give greater legal protection to this vulnerable group.

Article/Bazil – Learning about food labels about food and nutrients: the use of labeling in research education

The function of labels is to guide consumers to understand food ingredients and promote healthy food choices. However, this does not mean that consumers use labels as a tool to choose which foods should be part of their diet. This investigative activity will address cellular biochemistry content – water and minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, and nucleic acids. The proposal will have a duration of 4 classes, and students will be divided into food groups, where after the exposure of images of unprocessed, processed and ultra-processed foods made by the teacher, the groups will create a label of the type of food designated for each group. Next, the teacher will challenge the students with a guiding question, and from this question they will develop hypotheses. The students will use real labels of foods that make up their diet to answer a questionnaire and compare the information on the real labels with the label they produced. A text will be produced reporting if after the research and activities done by the students, their hypotheses were right or not. Finally, there will be a round of conversation in which students can orally explain the difference between the label created by them and the real label. It is hoped that this proposal, based on the reading and analysis of food/beverage labels present in their diet, will alert and make students aware of the importance of having good eating habits, giving priority to unprocessed or minimally processed foods that contain nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of their bodies.

Article – Carbohydrate content and ingredient profile of supposedly “low-carb” food products in Brazil

Purpose

This study aims to evaluate the carbohydrate content, ingredient profile and degree of processing of supposedly “low-carb” foods in the Brazilian market.

Design/methodology/approach

Information was collected from physical supermarkets in Divinópolis, Minas Gerais and on websites throughout Brazil between July and September/2020. The carbohydrate content was assessed in g/100 g, and ingredient lists were investigated for the presence of carbohydrate-rich ingredients. The degree of processing of the products was evaluated by NOVA classification to determine whether the term “low carb” had been translated into Portuguese.

Findings

This study evaluated a total number of 164 products, the most frequent were bakery products (34.7%), granola and cereal bars (19.5%) and candies and desserts (14.0%). This claim was also found in low-carb foods such as cheese and chicken. Most food products evaluated (56.0%) were classified as ultra-processed, with the group having the highest carbohydrate content (20.0; 3.0–47.5g/100g), compared to products classified as processed foods (p < 0.01). The ingredient lists showed items rich in carbohydrates, such as cassava and corn derivatives. In 162 products, a low-carb claim was displayed without translation into Portuguese. These data demonstrate that most of these products are ultra-processed and have a high glycidic content.

Article – Marketing techniques, health, and nutritional claims on processed foods and beverages before and after the implementation of mandatory front-of-package warning labels in Peru

In June 2019, mandatory front-of-package warning labels (FOPL) were implemented in Peru. The aim of the study was to describe changes in marketing strategies on packaging: marketing techniques (MT), health claims (HC), and nutritional claims (NC) on the packaging of products frequently consumed by children before and after the FOPL implementation. Product photos were taken pre- (March 2019) and post-implementation (March-October 2020) in three supermarkets in Lima, Peru. Following INFORMAS protocols and Peruvian Technical Norms, the presence of MT, HC, and NC was assessed on all package sides. Products were classified as “high-in” and “not high-in” based on the regulation threshold for critical nutrients. Differences in the proportion of products with each strategy in both periods were evaluated. Also, a subsample of products was matched according to the barcode and exact McNemar test was used to compare proportions of strategies pre/post-implementation. We included 883 and 1,035 products in pre- and post-implementation, respectively. In both periods, MT appeared on almost 70% of all products. The presence of HC increased significantly only for beverages (24.5–38.1%, p < 0.001). In both phases, NC were commonly used on beverages (>80%). Overall, the prevalence of “high-in” products using MT increased (73.6–82.1%, p = 0.007), while use of HC increased among “not high-in” products (32.9–41.6%, p < 0.001). There is a high frequency of MT on all products and NC on beverages. The increase in MT in “high-in” products may be an industry response to minimize the impact of the FOPL on food choices and sales. New regulatory aspects regarding labeling should be implemented to strengthen the current policy.

Article – Coexistence of high content of critical nutrients and claims in food products targeted at Brazilian children

Objective:

This study aimed to evaluate food labels targeted at children and identify the concomitant presence of claims and high levels of critical nutrients and/or the presence of sweeteners. As a secondary objective, it aimed to list different types of claims and check which marketing strategies are most used.

Methods:

We collected 409 products, from 8 popular food groups targeted at children, in Brazilian market (i.e., fruit drinks, dairy drinks, sandwich cookies, cakes, breakfast cereals, jellies, corn snacks, and yogurts). The contents of critical nutrients (e.g., sugar, total fat, saturated fat, and trans-fat, and sodium) and presence/absence of sweetener were calculated, considering Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) parameters. Then, we verified the presence and types of claims in these products.

Results:

Overall, 265 (64.7%) labels presented claims. In three of the eight categories (i.e., breakfast cereals, dairy drinks, and yogurt), all products with claims (50, 34, and 34 products, respectively) had one or more nutrients in harmful concentrations (critical nutrients above PAHO’s nutritional profile and/or presence of sweeteners). In the other categories, only one product (of 63 sandwich cookies and 26 breakfast cereals with claims) and three products (of 22 cakes and 28 jellies with claims) had no nutrient in critical concentration. The presence of claims, like “rich/source” of micronutrient, was predominant in seven of the eight food groups.

Conclusion:

In the present study, there was a high presence of claims, of different types, in foods targeted at children, which, for the most part, also have excess of at least one critical nutrient, according to PAHO.