Regulatory strategies to reduce global obesity and heart disease

10 February, 2023

Governments and industry bodies worldwide have developed various approaches to understand the relationship between non-communicable diseases such as obesity, CVD (cardiovascular disease) and diabetes and “unhealthy” foods. In this week’s blog, we look at the different approaches countries are taking to tackle global health issues.


Ultra-processed foods

It is well established that consumption of ultra-processed foods can lead to the increased risk of developing cancer and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, recently reported that “higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a greater risk of developing cancer…[and] an increased risk of dying from cancer…”. The study was published in eClinicalMedicine, in collaboration with researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), University of São Paulo, and NOVA University Lisbon.

NOVA classification

The classification of ultra-processed foods was developed by the Brazilian authorities, creating the NOVA food classification. It groups all foods by the nature, extent, and purpose of any industrial processes they undergo, including the physical, biological, and chemical techniques used after harvest and before consumption or preparation. NOVA is now used globally to investigate dietary patterns, assess changes over time in the dietary share of ultra-processed foods and analyse the association of this share with the nutrient profile of diets and with health outcomes.

The observations made on the relationship between ultra-processed foods and NCDs have led several organisations to push for the regulation of ultra-processed foods with the intention of reducing sugar, fat and sodium intakes. Different approaches have been employed around the world.

Regulatory strategies tackling obesity

The UK government, as part of its strategy to tackle obesity, has introduced the Food (Promotion and Placement) Regulation (England) 2021. The core aim of this regulation, which came into force in part on 1 October 2022, is to restrict the visibility and promotion of products high in fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS), as well as reducing the availability of volume-based promotions (effective October 2023).

In the Middle East, the UAE is exploring the elimination of trans fats in local food supplies as well as aiming for a 30% reduction in intake. The Saudi Arabia government has created a draft regulation for the labelling of physical activities required to burn calories on restaurant menus.

Further, in Canada, the authorities have recently implemented front-of-pack symbol warning consumers of foods high in saturated fat, sugars, and/or sodium.

As shown, different geographical markets are working towards a common goal to reduce NCDs caused by consumption of unhealthy foods, using different approaches and at different rates. This lack of harmonization could cause trade hurdles. Therefore, an awareness of the global regulatory landscape is essential for a smooth market launch.

To learn more about how different countries are tackling different regulatory and policy approaches to address global health issues, please get in touch at [email protected]. Leatherhead’s experienced team of scientists and regulatory experts, including former regulators and industry advocates, can support you every step of the way.


How can we help?

By submitting your details you agree to us holding the personal data you've supplied for the purpose of processing your enquiry. For information about how we handle your data, please read our privacy policy