Frequently Asked Questions
More about the Choices Programme
What is the Choices Programme?
The Choices Programme is a unique global multi-stakeholder cooperation aiming to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Our goal is to add to the prevention of obesity and other diet-related health issues. Choices criteria, set by leading independent scientists, indicate the healthiest options in each food group. The positive front-of-pack Choices logo helps consumers make healthy food choices and stimulates producers to develop healthier products.
Who is involved in the Choices Programme?
The Choices Programme involves stakeholders from industry, science and government. Food manufacturers, retailers and caterers are welcome to participate in the programme to realize healthy innovation and to make use of the front-of-pack logo. Membership of the national Choices organisation grants companies the possibility to use the Choices logo on products if they comply with the criteria. These criteria, based on international dietary guidelines, are established and periodically reviewed by independent leading scientists.
What does the Choices logo mean?
The Choices logo identifies the healthiest options within each food product group, using science-based criteria. The product criteria are based on international dietary guidelines from the World Health Organization, are category-specific and take into account the levels of saturated and trans fatty acids, added sugar, salt, dietary fibre and energy in foods and beverages.
Who can use the Choices logo?
Choices helps companies put their health ambitions into practice. The programme is voluntary and open to food manufacturers, retailers and caterers - regardless of their size. It consists of product group specific criteria, set by independent leading scientists, to identify the healthiest options in each food category. The Choices logo is currently found on over 7000 food and beverage products of about 120 companies that participate in the initiative.
How do products earn the Choices logo?
Products from member companies that fulfil the criteria within the product groups are eligible to carry the logo. This assessment is executed by an independent certifying agent.
Do companies pay for the Choices logo?
No, companies pay for their participation in the national Choices Programme, which is used for communication, market control, effect evaluation and the secretariat. The level of this membership fee is determined by the Board of the national Choices organisation. In addition, a small amount has to be payed for the certification of the product by the certifying agent. The composition of the product in relation to the category criteria determines if the product will be certified.
Who decides on the Choices criteria?
The Choices international criteria are established by a group of independent scientists from all continents in the International Scientific Committee. The criteria are regionally adapted by independent national scientific committees. Scientists from food industry can be consulted for applicability, but it is the scientific committee that decides.
Are the qualifying criteria applicable to all food products?
The qualifying criteria are applicable to all food products, from fruits and vegetables to snacks and drinks. The only exceptions are products with alcohol, infant food (for infants <1 year), supplements and food products prescribed under medical supervision.
Why can products such as snacks and soft drinks get a logo?
The Choices Programme focuses on the healthiest products in each category. Also in product categories that do not contribute significantly to the intake of essential nutrients, healthier choices can be made. A substantial decrease in the dietary daily intake of saturated fat, sugar, salt and energy can be achieved by choosing healthier options, also within product categories like snacks and beverages.
Don’t snacks with a Choices logo encourage consumers to eat more?
The Choices Programme is open to all foods, including snack items. Although limited, research shows that consumers do not increase their consumption of snack foods just because they are labelled with the Choices logo. Food labelling is only part of consumer information on nutrition and diets. The national foundations also educate consumers on the purpose of the logo within the context of a healthy daily diet.
Who assigns and monitors the logo?
Companies that wish to participate in the Choices Programme sign a membership agreement with the national Choices organisation and pay an annual membership fee. Thereafter, they can apply for a logo on individual products from the national Choices organisation. An independent agency assesses the products’ composition against the nutritional criteria. Products that comply with the nutrition criteria may use the logo on pack. This independent assessment agency is appointed at national level.
Is there a monitoring system in place to ensure that the logo is correctly used? What about sanctions if companies use the label on products that do not qualify?
Checking compliance of the participating companies with the programme’s guidelines, including a sanction procedure, is the responsibility of the national foundations. In cooperation with an independent certifying agency, national foundations set up a procedure for control and monitoring. In case of non-compliance, it is usually sufficient to make the company aware of the inappropriate logo use in order to make the necessary changes. In addition, signalling breaches of the trademark by non-participating companies is a joint interest and responsibility of both the national Choices organisation and participating companies.
Can the Choices logo be found on all products in a country?
The Choices logo is only used on products from participating food producers that comply with the Choices nutritional criteria. Products that do not comply are not eligible to carry the logo, neither products from companies that do not join the initiative. The Choices organisations continuously try to motivate other companies to join the open initiative to help consumers to identify the healthier options within a product category.
What is the scientific basis of the Programme?
The International Scientific Committee, with leading independent scientists in nutrition and food technology determines and periodically evaluates the qualifying criteria of the Choices logo on international level. These are based on the WHO nutrition recommendations for saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt), sugar, dietary fibre and energy. These criteria are adapted and revised by national scientific committees. Members of these Scientific Committees are in addition encouraged to execute impact studies to monitor the results of the programme. The Choices International Secretariat monitors and presents research on the impact of the programme in a regularly updated research overview.