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Supporting policy with scientific evidence

We mobilise people and resources to create, curate, make sense of and use knowledge to inform policymaking across Europe.

Blog Post | 02 Oct 2023

Reformulating our food for a healthier life 

Οn 18 September, JRC.F1 colleagues from the Health Promotion team presented and launched the Commission’s newest tool, the Food and Beverages Labels Explorer – or FABLE, at the final Joint Action Best-ReMaP conference in Paris in the presence of ministries and agencies from over 20 European countries as well as stakeholders from civil society, public health and industry. FABLE is a web-based nutrition information tool, containing general and nutritional information from the labels of packaged foods and beverages in Europe and provides a user-friendly visualisation tool. FABLE gives Europe’s citizens and organisations the chance to monitor the nutritional quality of the food offer, which can incentivise reformulation efforts and lead to an improved food offer, making healthier choices more available to consumers.

Healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet: these are the core values of the European Green Deal and the Farm-to-Fork Strategy.   

Yet, looking at our plate, it's evident we have a considerable journey ahead to truly embrace healthy and sustainable diets.   

Many pre-packaged foods and beverages still contain excessive salt, sugars, total and saturated fats. They are closely linked with serious health concerns, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. European adults consume more than the dietary recommendations set by EFSA or the WHO.   

To pivot towards healthier diets, we must improve the nutritional profiles of these products (WHO, 2023). Reformulating our food - by changing both its processing and composition - can lead to healthier and more sustainable diets.   

EU’s food data: Bridging the information gap  

To make this shift, monitoring the food offer at European level is key.   

We therefore need a consistent data collection across countries, and this information must be accessible to our key stakeholders. While efforts have been made in recent years to gather nutritional data from packaged goods, a central free-access place hosting such data on the European food offer has been missing.   

The Joint Research Centre has launched a new food reformulation monitoring tool called FABLE - Food and Beverages Label Explorer. This web-based Europe-wide nutrition information tool contains general and nutritional information collected with a sound and common approach from the labels of packaged foods and beverages in Europe and provides a user-friendly visualisation tool.  

FABLE aims to close the information gap by making data collected on branded food and beverages through EU-funded projects publicly available for researchers, policy makers and the public.   

FABLE will be hosting data on branded food and beverage products across Europe collected through joint efforts at EU level, like JANPA, EUREMO and Best-ReMaP (> 100 000 products across >20 countries). Several food categories are covered, like bread and bread products, breakfast cereals, soft drinks, and dairy products.   

For the very first time, data have been collected across Europe using similar methodology for the data collection and using a harmonised nomenclature for the food (sub-)categories across the projects. Its design will allow the addition of data coming from future data collection efforts. ​   

Users can interact with, explore and visualise data in an easy way. FABLE allows:  

  • Country comparisons for specific nutrients and food groups,   

  • Deep dive into each country/food category specific nutrient of concern,   

  • The ability to compare the quality of food offerings over time  

Therefore, FABLE gives Europe’s citizens and organisations the chance to monitor the nutritional quality of the food offer. This can in turn incentivise reformulation efforts, help identifying priorities for policy making and efforts by businesses, and lead to an improved food offer, thereby making healthier choices more available to consumers.  

More features to come!   

FABLE will be continuously updated to incorporate new features. Additional analysis dashboards and more modules (for example, on ingredients, time trends) will become available in the coming months. In addition, feedback from users will be taken on-board to further improve its usability and user-friendliness. The Member States will continue their work during the upcoming Joint Action PREVENT-NCD, and the JRC and FABLE will support them in the coming years. FABLE and the JRC’s Health Promotion team in Unit F.1 stand ready to support other policy areas where food offer monitoring is crucial, such as protecting children from harmful food marketing and sustainable public food procurement. 

  Previous work on food reformulation  

Sugars, Salt, Saturated Fat and Fibre Purchased through Packaged Food and Soft Drinks in Europe 2015–2018: Are We Making Progress?  

The ineligibility of food products from across the EU for marketing to children according to two EU-level nutrient profile models  

Sugars content in selected foods in the EU: a 2015 baseline to monitor sugars reduction progress