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, the countries have also shared a food label, the Keyhole, which is based on these recommendations. The “Keyhole” started life in Sweden, where it has been used for 25 years. In 2009 the scheme was expanded to include the other Nordic countries and now encompasses the whole of the Nordic Region 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 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.
Promoting product development
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 value of using the Keyhole brand.
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 Nordic 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.
Improving public health
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.
- Keyhole highlights the healthier alternative within a product group
- To be allowed to display the Keyhole label, products must contain less salt and sugar, less fat or healthier fats, and more whole grains and fibre than comparable products
- The Keyhole is found on products including bread, grains, dairy products, oils and ready meals
- All fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meat must feature the label
- Use of the Keyhole label is free and voluntary
- The producer of the food product is responsible for complying with the regulations
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