First, the good news.
In a survey conducted in the UAE by the Community Design for Wellbeing Initiative, which was launched by UAE’s National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing in April this year, 72.5 per cent of respondents said they preferred using nutritional colour-coded labels to help them understand the food value of products.
This statistically high awareness will provide great momentum to UAE’s new Nutritional Labelling Policy, boosting the country’s relentless efforts to bring down the rates of obesity and lifestyle-related diseases among its population.
The labelling policy, which was approved by the UAE Cabinet last week, is premised on the use of the colours red, amber or green to symbolise the nutritional status of the food, and the effectiveness of this approach lies in the time-tested psychological cues these colours provide.
The need to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which is predominantly dependant on our food choices, has never been more urgent thanks to the spiralling rates of diseases linked to the consumption of unhealthy foods.
Nearly 30 per cent of the UAE population suffers from heart disease. The average health care spend per person in the UAE on obesity alone is Dh13,221.
Viewed against this background, the Nutritional Labelling Policy’s payoff of Dh55m in annual projected savings for the UAE’s health care system on diet-related diseases is extremely significant.
The colour-coding of foods, canned, liquids and solids, will help people make informed choices
Plus, there is also a 30 per cent projected reduction in the unhealthy food consumption pattern in consumers.
As the survey revealed, a major obstacle to people choosing healthy foods is the relative lack of clear nutritional information on labels.
The colour-coding of foods, canned, liquids and solids, will resolve this issue unambiguously and help people make informed choices.
These are invaluable objectives to aim for and every count of a decrease in the negative health statistics will be a reflection of an improvement in people’s health and the country’s overall well-being.
The issue of making healthy food choices also has a global dimension: there is a rising chorus of warnings from experts on the over-exploitative ways of global farming, including animal and sea food, to meet the demands of wasteful, ever-increasing human appetites and its impact on the planet.
The two urgencies — the planet’s health, and our own health — are not independent of each other and fact that a majority of people in the UAE are expressing the need to be calorically informed is a sign of the positive change waiting to happen.