Country – Philippines
In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) formulated the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health in response to the global increase in deaths caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs), as evident in the World Health Report published in 2002. It urged its member states “to develop, implement and evaluate actions recommended in the Strategy, as appropriate to national circumstances and as part of their overall policies and programs that promote individual and community health through healthy diet and physical activity and reduce the risks and incidence of non-communicable diseases."1 As a response of the Philippine government, the Department of Health (DOH), through the assistance of WHO, commissioned the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines (NDAP) in 2009 to establish national guidelines on healthy eating to encourage the public to include healthy food items in their diets. The Guidelines on Healthy Eating were then formulated by the end of that year and was eventually used as the basis for a certification program for healthy processed food products. The certification program was then named the “Good for You” Certification Program. The main objective of the program was to enable consumers to easily identify healthy products by recognizing the “Good for You” stamp that would be awarded to products that were able to meet the criteria specified in the Guidelines on Healthy Eating.
1WHO. Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. 2004.
The guidelines were focused on four key nutrients namely fat, sodium, sugar and dietary fiber. These nutrients were given emphasis because they are highly correlated with the onset of NCDs or in the case of dietary fiber, to the prevention and deferment of their development in at-risk individuals. In general, the Codex Alimentarius guidelines for including health claims in food labels were used as the main basis. This program will require food manufacturers to submit a comprehensive nutrient profile of their products for thorough evaluation of the certifying committee. If the nutrient profile of a product submitted for certification complied with the requirements, it will be given the “Good for You” stamp.
Several food manufacturers and food service establishments were consulted in the process of formulating the guidelines and in the conceptualization of the certification program to determine its feasibility. It was initially named the “Good for You” Certification Program but later changed to the “Healthier You” Certification Program in January of 2011 to further emphasize that consumption of the certified products, at the right amounts, would inevitably result to the improvement of one’s health.
At present, the certification program is in the process of evaluating the results of the pilot test of the program. The technical working group, composed of registered nutritionist-dietitians specializing in the different fields of nutrition in the Philippines, is optimistic that the results will prove that such a program would increase the awareness of consumers about the availability of healthy food products in the market and that it would encourage them to choose healthy food items.
Demetria Bongga, PhD, RN-D., Project Leader