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National Programme For Happiness And Wellbeing Launches Nutrition Labelling Policy

The UAE Cabinet, chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has approved the Nutrition Labelling Policy, which represents a significant outcome of the Community Design for Wellbeing Initiative launched by the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing in April 2019. The initiative aimed to engage the community in designing initiatives to promote wellbeing in the United Arab Emirates.

The Nutrition Labelling Policy aims to raise community awareness and nudge people into adopting a healthy lifestyle, which will eventually promote health and overall wellbeing in the UAE. The implementation of the policy will be non-compulsory in its initial phase until it becomes compulsory in January 2022.

The new policy aims to label nutritional information on fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content in three colours – red, amber and green – on the front of food packages based on their levels, making it easy for customers to see whether the contents are high or low. Information on calories shall also be included in the labels.

The policy was developed by the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing in cooperation with the Food Security Office, and will be implemented by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, ESMA. It will include canned solid and liquid foods, but will exclude fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meat and fish.

Ohoud bint Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing and Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office, noted that wellbeing is a holistic concept in which a healthy lifestyle plays a major role, and that the Nutrition Labelling Policy reflects the UAE government keenness to promote healthy lifestyles in the community by encouraging healthy eating habits.

She added that the policy is a significant outcome of the Community Design for Wellbeing Initiative in which we engaged with the people and collected insights on the barriers that prevent them from adopting a healthy lifestyle. One of those barriers was lack of clear nutritional information on food labels, so we conducted a field survey to identify the best tools for addressing this challenge.

Al Roumi commended the community for their engagement in the initiative and the field survey, saying that the new policy supports the objectives of the National Wellbeing Strategy focusing on the adoption of healthy and active lifestyles, and contributes to reducing nutrition-related lifestyle diseases, including diabetes and obesity.

Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, said that the policy offers a comprehensive framework to provide consumers with nutritional data on the food products that would be best for their health in an easy manner. She noted that the data includes information on sugar, salt and fat contents, as well as calories, eventually leading to an improvement in the quality and quantity of the food that they consume. "This policy is aligned with the World Health Organisation guidelines and complies with global best practices and relevant standard specifications," she noted.

She stated, "The initiative, launched in cooperation with the public and private sectors, supports the National Food Security Strategy, which aims to sustain food safety, improve nutritional intake and reduce the consumption of unhealthy food elements by 30%. Achieving these objectives will reduce diet-related diseases and health issues which cost more than AED 55 million yearly."

Almheiri added, "This policy will allow consumers to make better nutritional choices, and boost their confidence in the food industry, which will eventually enhance the national food security in the UAE."

Abdulla Al Maeeni, Director-General of the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, said that the policy will contribute to achieving the national agenda indicators and enhance wellbeing in the UAE.

Al Maeeni indicated that the policy implementation will raise the awareness of the community, enhance public health, and boost the competitiveness of locally-produced foods.

The Nutrition Labelling Policy was based on the results of the Community Design for Wellbeing Initiative. Participants in the initiative stressed the importance of simple and clear systems for food labelling to enable them make healthy choices.

The policy also considered the results of a field survey conducted in cooperation with leading cooperatives and supermarkets in the UAE. The survey showed that 72.5% of respondents prefer using clear colour-coded labels to help them understand the nutritional facts about food products.

Several studies have shown that healthy eating contributes to improving wellbeing and reducing chronic diseases and death rates. Other recent studies have shown that 68% of people in the UAE are overweight, 28% are obese, 44% have high cholesterol levels, 29% have high blood pressure, 20% eat high-sodium foods, and that these diseases are responsible for 30% of all deaths in the UAE.

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