In this section, we feature scientific publications of new research from Europe and the rest of the world, that may be of interest to EUFIC readers. EUFIC was not involved in this research, unless stated otherwise.
A recent study published in the European Journal of Public Health has identified uncertainty surrounding sweeteners among dietitians, which is reflected by the diversity of positions taken by the media, public health information and non-governmental organisations. Researchers from the University of Bath and Plymouth University, based in the UK, and the European Food Information Council, in Belgium, examined dietitians’ perceptions of sweeteners and the practical advice they provide about them.
How different reference amounts on nutrition labels influence consumers’ product healthfulness evaluation was investigated by researchers from the University of Surrey and the team at the European Food Information Council. The study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that products with a ‘per 100g’ label were rated as less healthful compared to products with reference amounts given in ‘typical’ or ‘half typical’ portions.
Researchers from the University of Reading in the UK have found that the addition of herbs and spices can increase consumers’ liking of reduced-salt soups. They found that reducing salt led to a significant decline in liking for the soup, which initially was unaffected by the addition of herbs and spices. However, consumer acceptance for the herbs and spices soup increased after regular exposure over five days. Consumers also perceived that this soup contained a similar level of salt as the standard soup. While salt is an important component of many foods, a high sodium diet can increase the chances of hypertension, and therefore, the risk of cardiovascular disease. Salt in foods is used for taste, texture and preservation, so reducing salt in food products can be a considerable challenge for food manufacturers.
Schools are regarded as a promising intervention target to counteract the increase of childhood obesity levels. In this context, the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) published a report this summer on the assessment of nutrition-related content of national school food policies in the 28 EU Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland. The main finding was that all of these countries have a school food policy of some sort in place, either mandatory or voluntary. The report aims to inform public health policy makers, educators and researchers about the current European landscape of school food policies, highlighting various options intended to promote healthier school food environments.
Researchers from the EU-funded Food4Me project have validated the use of their online Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), a method for assessing dietary intake that requires respondents to select the frequency of food products consumed over a period of time. FFQs are important for assessing the outcomes from dietary interventions to help professionals make informed decisions when providing diet-related recommendations. Results of two repetitions of this web-based questionnaire were also measured against findings from a four-day weighed food record (WFR), often considered the most accurate measure of food consumption in dietary intake assessments. Results show that the Food4Me FFQ is a reliable and accurate tool for nutritionists, dietitians and nutrition researchers.
Despite numerous policy interventions to promote fruit and vegetable consumption, daily intake of fruits and vegetables is still below recommended levels worldwide. In a recent review published in the peer-reviewed journal Appetite, researchers from the University of Sydney, Australia, present an overview of the major campaigns of the last two decades, that have aimed to promote a long-term and sustainable increase in fruit and vegetable intake. The impact of these initiatives was low to modest and the authors identify recommendations to help promote future approaches in achieving a more significant behavioural change in the broader population.
Research from the EU-funded FoodRisC project into the most effective methods to communicate food risks and safety, has revealed the value of complimenting the use of traditional communication channels with social media. This study, carried out by researchers from across Europe, assessed whether European consumers already familiar with social media use it to seek information on food-related risks. Results show that risk information can be provided on social media alongside other information resources, but that it should not be considered as a substitute.
The need for transatlantic collaboration for conducting cross-cultural studies on sustainable interventions and long-term outcomes was discussed in a symposium held in Gent, Belgium in May 2013, under the auspices of the EU–US Task Force on Biotechnology Research. The symposium focused on determinants of healthy food choices and nutrition-related purchasing behaviours. A call to action stressed the priorities for future research in a framework of collaboration between academia, government authorities and the food and beverage industry.