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Many leading food and drink manufacturers have stepped up efforts to encourage better diets, largely by adopting better policies and publishing more information, according to the 2018 Global Access to Nutrition Index, which measures the efforts being made by the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers to reduce ill health due to poor diets. Some have also increased efforts to address undernutrition, including by fortifying foods and supporting education programmes.
However, most companies are doing far too little to ensure that poor people have access to affordable healthier diets, including fortified products, and there is still widespread lack of compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Analysis of 23,013 products sold in nine countries by the companies in the Index reveals that less than a third of them can be classified as healthy. Many companies state that a higher proportion of their products are healthy, indicating that their definition is less strict than the two objective and independently-verified models used by the Access to Nutrition Foundation.
Nestlé tops the 2018 Index, with above average performance in all, and improvements in most, of the categories of the Index. Meanwhile, Friesland Campina, a Dutch dairy cooperative, has improved the most since 2016, climbing four places in the ranking largely thanks to a new strategy, new initiatives to tackle undernutrition and more responsible marketing commitments. Nine companies scored 5 or more, compared to only 2 in 2016; and the average score overall went up from 2.5 to 3.3 out of 10, but remains quite low.
Inge Kauer, Executive Director of the Access to Nutrition Foundation said: “There is good news and bad. On the one hand, we see evidence that a number of companies are upping their commitments to tackle various aspects of the nutrition challenge, including persistent high levels of undernutrition in many emerging markets. They are doing this, for example, by reformulating some products, improving labeling and addressing undernutrition as part of their core business strategies. However, the results also show companies need to get better at ‘walking the talk’ and in particular need to set clear and verifiable targets for improving the healthiness of their product ranges.”