The letter of intent (Memorandum of Understanding, MoU) for facilitating a healthier diet in the population is a signed agreement between the Norwegian health authorities and food industry (food and trade organizations, food and beverage manufacturers, food retailers and food service industry). The MoU (Norwegian, PDF) was signed on December 6th, 2016 and lasts until 31st December 2021.
The agreement contains specific goals related to reducing the intake of salt (the Salt partnership), added sugar and saturated fat, and increasing the intake of fruits and berries, vegetables, whole grain foods, fish and seafood in the population.
Purpose of the partnership
For several years the Norwegian food industry has collaborated with the health authorities with the aim of making groceries healthier. The partnership for a healthier diet is a more comprehensive collaboration with clear responsibilities and structure, ambitious goals and political attention.
The overall goal is to increase the proportion of the population who has a balanced diet in accordance with the dietary guidelines, and to contribute to achieve the targets of World Health Organization for reduction in premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases by 25 percent within 2025. A long-term perspective is necessary to achieve the desired changes. This partnership can contribute to achieving the national objectives of public health in Norway, as stated in the White paper on Public Health to the Storting in 2015 (in Norwegian, regjeringen.no):
- Norway will become one of the three countries in the world with the highest life expectancy
- We will have added years of life with good health and well-being for all
- We will reduce social inequalities in health
- We will create a society that promotes health for the entire population
Objectives and priority areas
The partnership includes six priority areas where specific goals have been set for each area:
1. Reduction of the salt content in foods and the reduction of salt intake in the population through the Salt partnership. The goal is based upon the assumption that the average salt intake in the population was 10 grams per day in 2010. The goal is to reduce the average salt intake to 8 g per day by 2021, and to 7 g per day by 2025. The long-term goal is 5 g of salt per day.
2. Reduction of added sugars in foods and the reduction of the population's intake of added sugar. The goal is that the population's intake of added sugar is reduced by at least 12.5 percent by 2021. The long-term goal is that added sugar contributes with maximum 10 percent of the total energy intake (E%).
3. Reduction of saturated fat in foods and the reduction of saturated fat intake in the population. The goal is that the intake of saturated fat is reduced to 13 E% by 2018. The long-term goal is that saturated fat contributes with maximum 10 E%.
4. Increase the populations intake of fruits and berries, vegetables, whole grain foods and seafood by 20 percent by 2021, which is in line with the Norwegian National Action Plan for a Healthier Diet 2017–2021. The long-term goal is that the population has a dietary intake of these foods at the level of the official dietary guidelines.
5. Influence consumer behavior to increase awareness and knowledge about health and diet.
6. Monitoring of progress as specified in the agreement.
Organization of the partnership
The partnership is organized according to the following model:
The Minister's food industry group
This is a high-level group between the Minister for the Elderly and Public Health and executives in the food industry, that ensures dialogue on overall guiding principles of the collaboration, and political focus on the areas of action. On the agenda is achievements, overall plans and future strategy for the work. Changes in the MoU must be anchored in this group. The business group meets twice a year.
The coordination group
The coordination group consists of representatives of the parties. The coordination group reports to the Minister's business group. The coordination group has the overall responsibility for coordinating the work of the MoU, including ensuring progress and evaluation of the partnership. The division of Public Health and Prevention in the Norwegian Directorate of Health represents the Ministry of Health and Care Services in the coordination group. The coordination group meets four times per year. The composition of the group is as follows:
- 2 representatives from Virke, the Enterprise Federation of Norway / Norgesgruppen
- 2 representatives from Norwegian Federation of Service Industries and Retail Trade / Rema
- 2 representatives from Coop
- 1 representative from the Norwegian Seafood Federation
- 1 representative from the Norwegian Association of Fruit and Vegetable Wholesalers
- 4 representatives from FoodDrinkNorway / food and beverage manufacturers
- 1 representative from the Norwegian Hospitality Association
- 1 representative from Virke KBS
- 2 representatives from the Norwegian Directorate of Health
- The head of the secretariat meets in the coordination group
The secretariat assists the coordination group, the reference group and each priority area. The secretariat is organized by the Norwegian Directorate of Health.
The reference group
A reference group is established consisting of renowned scientists in relevant areas of expertise, who can provide expert advice to the coordination group and to the focus areas. The reference group consists of researchers in nutrition, food technology, consumer behavior, psychology and marketing.
The partnership consists of 6 priority areas where the companies themselves choose which of the priority areas 1–4 that is appropriate for their business. In addition, all the contracting parties are committed to contribute to influencing consumer behavior towards healthier choices (priority area 5), and to contribute to monitoring progress of the work (priority area 6).
How to join the partnership?
The Ministry of Health and Care Services and the business organizations are contracting parties and signatories of the MoU (in Norwegian, PDF). All other associated companies join the partnership by signing an affiliate agreement.
Affiliated companies choose which of the priority area(s) 1–4 they want to work with. The affiliated businesses work towards fulfilling the goals of their relevant focus areas.
In addition, all signatories must contribute to priority area 5 (affecting consumer behavior) and priority area 6 (monitoring of progress). The coordination group has a special responsibility on priority area 5 and 6. The health authorities contribute towards all priority areas.
Any questions about the partnership can be directed to the Secretariat.
Status of the work
As of 1st of January 2019 there are a total of 95 affiliated companies and enterprises in the partnership. The common goals in the partnership are based on data from national surveys from the Norwegian Directorate of Health, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the University of Oslo and Statistics Norway. The data is in the form of food supply statistics, consumer consumption surveys and national dietary surveys.
Priority area 1: reduction of salt
The work on salt reduction is in the form of the Salt partnership. The Norwegian Directorate of Health lead and coordinates the work. 84 partners have joined the salt partnership.
Priority area 2: reduction of added sugar
FoodDrinkNorway organizes the work on sugar reduction. They organized two workshops in 2017. There are 42 affiliated businesses in this priority area. According to the food supply statistics, added sugar contributed with 12.3 percent of energy in 2015 and 11.8 E% in 2017.
Priority area 3: reduction of saturated fat
FoodDrinkNorway organizes the work on saturated fat and arranged two workshops in 2017. By 1st of January 2019 there was 47 affiliated businesses in this focus area. Saturated fat contributed with 14.5 E% in 2015 and 14.2 E% in 2017.
Priority area 4: increased intake of fruits and berries, vegetables, whole grain foods and seafood
The Norwegian Association of Fruit and Vegetable Wholesalers, the Norwegian Bakery and Confectionary Association and the Norwegian Seafood Federation organizes this focus area. They arranged two workshops in 2017 and two in 2018. By 1st January 2019 a total of 69 businesses had signed to contribute in this focus area. The food supply of vegetables has been stable, there has been a 1 percent reduction of fruits and berries, and fish has been reduced by 15 percent from 2015 to 2017. The proportion of whole grain flour from Norwegian mills increased by about 2 percent from 2015 to 2017.
Priority area 5: consumer behavior
All involved actors should use their available means towards changing consumer behavior in a healthier direction. The coordination group has a major responsibility on following this focus area.
Priority area 6: monitoring of progress
Monitoring is based on data from national surveys and other available sources. An external evaluation of the work will be performed by an independent research foundation throughout the entire partnership period (2017–2021). The first evaluation report will be published in the spring of 2019.
Ole Berg, Secretariat