Front-of-pack nutrition labelling in the European region: Identifying what works for governments and consumers
ObjectiveThe present commentary introduces a Health Evidence Network (HEN) report that synthesises evidence of front-of-pack food labelling (FOPL) policy development and implementation across the European Region.DesignCountries were identified as having policies on interpretive FOPL from the WHO databases of Member State policies and online repositories of global food policies. For each identified country, evidence published from 1 January 1980 to 31 March 2018 was retrieved from peer-reviewed and grey literature. Extracted data were cross-checked with in-country representatives to ensure completeness and accuracy.SettingWHO European Region, spanning fifty-three countries.ResultsFifteen countries had a government-endorsed policy on interpretive FOPL. Thirteen of these countries had introduced endorsement logos, while only three labelling systems provided an indicator for unhealthfulness. Common steps were identified in FOPL policy development, including: establishing FOPL as a nutrition policy priority; engaging stakeholders and the public; and collecting formative evidence on which to base the labelling system. Few countries had outlined formal provisions for evaluation of FOPL systems. The HEN report describes seven considerations for the adoption/review of FOPL policies to ensure these achieve the population nutrition aims of FOPL. These considerations relate to supporting consumer use and understanding of the labelling, policy feasibility and credibility, and ensuring policy implementation and accountability.ConclusionsThe HEN report encourages countries to consider FOPL policy that is applied widely across all products and provides negative evaluative judgements, possibly combined with positive indicators. Implementation provisions should drive widespread uptake of the system and allow for formal evaluation of impact.