The Nordic Region is celebrating five years of working together on the Keyhole nutrition label. To mark the occasion new, stricter requirements are being introduced for food products that apply to use the label, including lower salt content and more whole grains. A number of studies show a marked improvement in public health when consumers buy goods featuring the symbol.
The Nordic Council of Ministers has spent many years working on the nutrition recommendations that form the basis for national dietary guidelines in the Region. In recent years they have also shared a food label, the Keyhole, based on these recommendations.
The Keyhole was actually established in Sweden where it has been used for 25 years before its use spread to the rest of the Region in 2009, with the exception of Finland. The fifth year of this partnership will be celebrated in Stockholm on 4 March.
“The Keyhole label is an important tool for the agencies involved as it allows them to convey useful and information in an accessible manner. Consumer organisations, retailers and businesses are also involved, allowing us make the very most of the symbol,” explains the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Dagfinn Høybråten.
The new requirements, which will now apply to the entire food chain from producer to consumer, are determined jointly by the Nordic countries and so the requirements for less salt and more whole grains will come into effect across the Region. There will be a transition period, however, to give producers time to adapt their products to the new standards.
A number of Nordic studies have shown that the Keyhole helps drive product development and healthier alternatives. The retail sector is the main driving force behind the demand for products featuring the label. Yet it is not just businesses whose products display the label that benefit from the Keyhole brand value.
The label is making good progress in all of the countries. There are now 2,000 Keyhole food products in Norwegian grocery stores – five times as many as in 2009 – and although the label was not introduced in Iceland until November 2013, 90% of its target audience is already familiar with it. A similar symbol – the Heart label – is used in Finland. It follows the same criteria as the Keyhole.
The Council of Ministers has also promoted its work with the Keyhole in international forums, most recently at a major UN conference on nutrition held by the FAO and WHO in Rome in November 2014. Another of its conference initiatives was the microsite “Nutrition the Nordic Way”, which details how the Region works together on nutrition, from regional action plans to the consumer level.
An extra event hosted by the Council of Ministers addressed the growing global problem of obesity and being overweight, which measures like the Keyhole label can help to mitigate.
Studies also suggest that the Keyhole is helping people to eat more healthily.
The consumption of whole grains from breads and pastas increases considerably when consumers choose products featuring the Keyhole label. The intake of saturated fat decreases by 40% and the intake of added sugar decreases by a total of 9%. A Swedish study demonstrates that total calorie intake falls by 10% if consumers consistently opt for Keyhole foods.
A Danish study on food habits evaluated the effect of replacing non-Keyhole foods with corresponding products featuring the label. It suggests that this could reduce the intake of saturated fat by a total of 27% and salt by 1 gram. With the help of the Wholegrain logo, Danes could also increase their intake of whole grains by 76%.
In line with Nordic Nutrition Recommendations from 2012, the new Keyhole requirements seek to further reduce salt content while increasing the intake of whole grains.
Overall, the Keyhole makes it far easier to meet the Nordic countries’ dietary guidelines, and so there is plenty to celebrate on 4 March, with everything pointing to good progress toward healthy eating in the Region.
Visit the national Keyhole websites for more information about the scheme and the new requirements:
For an overview of Nordic co-operation on nutrition, visit www.nordicnutrition.org