Food and health

Nutritional composition of the food supply: a comparison of soft drinks and breakfast cereals between three European countries based on labels

Abstract

Background/Objectives

Monitoring of processed products at the brand level was implemented in Austria, France and Romania on the basis of the Oqali methodology during the Joint Action on Nutrition and Physical Activity (JANPA) to compare the nutritional quality of the food offering. The objective of this paper is to present the results obtained during this study.

Subjects/Methods

Collected data were those available on product packaging. In total, 2155 soft drinks and 943 breakfast cereals were classified in a standardised list of product families and analysed in a harmonised way. For each product family, mean values for sugar, fat, saturated fat, salt and dietary fibres were compared between countries. Common products across countries were also studied.

Results

For all the studied nutrients, significant differences were observed between countries, with a higher sugar content for Romania in regular carbonated and non-carbonated beverages containing fruits, regular lemonades and regular tonics and bitters (together with Austria for tonics), for France in fruit beverages with more than 50% fruit, and for Austria in low-sugar beverages containing tea. For France, higher nutrient contents were also observed for sugar in chocolate-flavoured cereals, filled cereals and cornflakes, and other plain cereals (at a similar level as Romania for cornflakes), and for saturated fats in honey/caramel cereals and crunchy mueslis. These differences were explained by a different food offering in the three countries, but also by differences in nutrient contents for common products. This study also showed high variability of the nutrient content within a product family, suggesting a real potential for product reformulation.

Conclusions

National tools, at the branded products level, are essential to monitor the nutritional quality of the food offering, and to follow up on processed food reformulations.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the partners in WP5 of JANPA who contributed to the pilot studies: in particular Sophie Langer from AGES (Österreichische Agentur für Gesundheit und Ernährungssicherheit) and Judith Benedics from BMGF (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit und Frauen) for Austria, Petru Sandu from UBB (Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai) for Romania, and Marine Spiteri, Géraldine Enderli and Louis George Soler from INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) for France.

Funding

This study is part of the JANPA Joint Action (Grant agreement no. 677063), which received funding from the European Union’s Health Programme (2014–2020).

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Correspondence to Karine Vin.

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Vin, K., Beziat, J., Seper, K. et al. Nutritional composition of the food supply: a comparison of soft drinks and breakfast cereals between three European countries based on labels. Eur J Clin Nutr 74, 17–27 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-019-0442-9

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