For now, the implementation of the policy is not mandatory, but it will be by January 2022. It

A nation-wide policy to label food products according to its nutritional value has been rolled out. The policy, which was approved by the UAE Cabinet recently, will see food labels list out information on fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content in three colours: Red (avoid consuming frequently), amber (consume moderately) and green (healthier choice). Information on calories will also be included.

For now, the implementation of the policy is not mandatory, but it will be by January 2022. It was developed by the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing in cooperation with the Food Security Office, and is being implemented by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology. It will cover canned solid and liquid foods. Fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat and fish are excluded.

Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Al Mehairi, Minister of State for Food Security, said the scheme supports the National Food Security Strategy, which - among other objectives - aims to reduce the consumption of unhealthy food elements by 30 per cent. "Achieving these objectives will reduce diet-related diseases and health issues which cost more than Dh55 million yearly," the minister noted.

A survey conducted in cooperation with leading cooperatives and supermarkets in the UAE revealed that 72.5 per cent of respondents prefer using clear colour-coded labels to help them understand the nutritional facts about food products.

Ohoud bint Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing and Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office, said the policy is an 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," she said.

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

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