The previous Eatwell Plate was updated to the Eatwell Guide to take account of the advice of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) on Carbohydrates and Health. The SACN report on Carbohydrates and Health included over 600 peer reviewed scientific papers, was subject to a robust quality assurance process and public consultation. Food Standards Scotland fully supports and values the work of the SACN.
Specifically on carbohydrates, SACN looked at all the evidence and concluded that total carbohydrate is neither a detriment nor a benefit to health but they did find evidence against sugar as a carbohydrate. SACN also found clear protective benefits to increasing fibre intakes. Starchy carbohydrates, particularly whole grains, rice and pasta are recommended as part of a balanced diet. Pulses such as beans and lentils are valuable sources of both protein and fibre.
Development of the Eatwell Guide, which was produced in association with Food Standards Scotland, was led by Public Health England who established an external reference group with a limited remit to gather views and potential methods for producing the new Guide. The group comprised a range of stakeholders from voluntary sector, health experts, academia and industry. PHE also commissioned the University of Oxford, who used high quality nutritional data together with current dietary recommendations, to produce the Guide.
Criticism of the Eatwell Guide has been generated by a number of different sources, none of which has undergone the robust and independent processes described above. As such the criticism is unhelpful and confusing to consumers.
It is clear that Scotland, has failed to make any meaningful progress towards meeting its Dietary Goals over the last 15- 20 years. Claims that Government healthy eating advice is the cause of the obesity epidemic are at odds with clear evidence of lack of progress towards the goals. On average, we continue to consume too much fat, sugar and salt, too little fibre, too many discretionary foods such as confectionery, cakes biscuits and savoury snacks and not enough fruit and vegetables, oil rich fish and whole grains.
Following evidence based dietary advice is key to meeting our dietary goals and improving Scotland’s health. The Eatwell Guide is a helpful and valuable tool for communicating this advice.
We know that two thirds of adults in Scotland are overweight or obese and 30% of children are at risk of becoming overweight or obese. It is estimated that by 2030 40% of our population may be obese. While we continue to consume energy dense diets high in fat, sugar and salt and continue to ignore the evidence, obesity and associated conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers will not go away but instead will only get worse.
The food industry also has an important part to play in achieving outcomes that are in the best interests of consumers and FSS is committed to working collaboratively with others to improve Scotland’s diet. This does not mean we are in “industry’s pocket” but if, for example, reductions in sugar consumption are to be achieved then industry has a critical role to play. To ignore the positive contribution industry can make is actually to the detriment of consumers. However the FSS Board is clear that if insufficient progress is made, then alternatives such as regulation should be considered.