Better food and nutrition in Europe: a progress report

Implementation of key policies to promote healthy diets and prevent obesity has improved significantly in recent years, according to a new report from the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The report assesses progress in the WHO European Region in implementing the European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015–2020. It presents selected epidemiological data alongside key insights related to policies to promote healthy nutrition among the population. The report finds that substantial progress has been made in areas such as school food, food product reformulation, fiscal approaches and surveillance of childhood obesity. However, areas in which implementation is lagging, and which therefore require more attention, include front-of-package labelling and comprehensive marketing restrictions for foods high in fats, sugar and salt. In addition, the report identifies scope for reinvigorated or extended action to support  breastfeeding and good complementary feeding practices.

The data contained in the report are derived from the responses of Member States to the WHO Global Nutrition Policy Review questionnaire. With unhealthy diets now responsible for 1 in 5 deaths globally and a rapid increase in overweight and obesity among children and adolescents in almost all countries, it is encouraging that Member States continue to prioritize this issue. At the midway point of implementing the Action Plan, WHO is pleased to observe substantial progress. Nevertheless, the report identifies some notable differences among countries in the breadth and depth of policies, something that is likely to influence impacts on diets and health. Some countries have taken a minimal approach and others a more ambitious one. Furthermore, the majority of countries are not on-track to achieve the global noncommunicable disease (NCD) and nutrition targets. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals all Member States of the Region have committed to address all forms of malnutrition and prevent avoidable premature mortality from NCDs. WHO encourages countries to refine and expand their approaches in food and nutrition policy to ensure they are comprehensive, have the greatest possible impact and contribute to achieving these important targets and goals.