Reducing taxes on healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits, and ensuring compliance with food supply rules in schools are some of the priorities highlighted by a new report.
The document, which assessed the performance of public policies on healthy eating, also recommended expanding the plan to reformulate food products, including catering.
According to the report, issued by the Directorate General of Health (DGS), to ensure that the current guidelines for food supply are applied in schools, a model should be defined that includes more supervision.
The authors of the document also recommend defining a food profile model that serves as the basis for implementing measures to promote healthy food environments and proposing an amendment to the Value Added Tax (VAT) law.
The intent is to “include other criteria(s) for attributing VAT rates, in addition to the necessity criterion, which takes into account the nutritional profile and/or framework of foods within the scope of a healthy diet.”
Inclusion of the Healthy Eating Promotion Program in the core portfolio of primary health care services and the identification of indicators to regularly monitor food consumption, nutritional status and health outcomes related to food and nutrition.
The specialists also suggest improving the nutrition and public health workforce, adjusting the proportion of primary health care nutritionists and integrating at least one of these professionals into each public health unit at the primary health care level.
Among other recommendations, national programs in the field of nutrition and healthy eating include the most vulnerable population groups, specifically the elderly, pregnant women, children, adolescents and migrants, as priority working groups.
The document states that inadequate nutrition is one of the main preventable causes of chronic non-communicable diseases, namely obesity, neoplastic disease, cerebrovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and asserts that the latest data from Global Burden Disease, 2019, shows that “unhealthy eating habits Fit in Portugal is among the five risk factors that most significantly determine the loss of years of healthy life and mortality.
“Given the weight that dietary risk factors place on the burden of disease in Portugal, similar to what has been seen in other European countries, the implementation of measures that promote healthy eating is required, that is, measures aimed at creating healthy food environments,” the experts write.
They stress that Portugal has sought to respond and follow international recommendations, implementing a “wide range of measures aimed at creating healthy food environments”, and give as an example the excise tax on sweetened beverages, legislation that imposes restrictions on food advertising aimed at children and the regulation of food supplies in Various public places (eg educational institutions and the National Health Service).
More than half of the Portuguese population (56%) do not comply with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to consume more than 400g/day of fruits and vegetables, according to data from the latest National Food and Physical Activity Survey (2015-2016).
Data from the latest National Health Survey (2019), released by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), revealed that 53.6% of the Portuguese adult population is overweight (pre-obese or obese), with obesity affecting 1.5 million people (16.9) %).