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News article14 February 20181 min read

Promoting healthier food choices through public procurement

Promoting healthier food choices through public procurement
© © Gerhard Seybert -

Can a change in public procurement of food and food services, for schools and worksite canteens for example, lead to better health for all? That was the topic of discussions between JRC scientists, colleagues from the European Commission Departement for Health and Food Safety and the Maltese Ministry for Health.

Reformulating food products to contain less sugars, salt or fat and possibly more fibre and essential micronutrients, is an important contribution to healthier food choices.

School food standards or nutrition criteria qualifying foods for carrying health logos can serve as drivers of, or benchmarks for food reformulation. This also impacts other privileges such as being included in vending machines or sale via tuck-shops,

Such health requirements can be included in the public procurement process. Beyond benefitting the immediate recipients of foods and food services procured, they can have wider positive knock-on effects on the composition of foods to eventually create overall improved food environments.

Just as procurement contracts demanding highest energy efficiency standards have helped make goods and buildings ever more energy-efficient, contracts specifying nutrition standards can result in more nutritious food offers in cafeterias, canteens, and tuck shops.

Manufacturers wishing to comply with the stipulated standards, are not only requested to reformulate their existing products or create nutritionally balanced new ones, but the resulting healthier products in turn might become available beyond the local context of the initial procurement contract, creating a healthy spill-over.

Innovation may also occur in technologies for food preparation and preservation to result in higher nutritional value for longer; again, spill-over may be expected.

Public procurement of food is a multi-billion euro business, and the European Commission as well as Member States offer guidance on how best to harness the power of this public purse. Success stories keep coming of how public procurement has improved food environments and dietary choices.

With better diet comes better health, making public procurement a high-return investment in a healthier future for all.

Read more in: Storcksdieck genannt Bonsmann, Stefan et al.: Public procurement as a policy tool to promote healthier food environments and choices, WHO Public Health Panorama - Volume 3, Issue 4, December 2017, 649-654

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Public procurement as a policy tool to promote healthier food environments and choices


Publication date
14 February 2018