Food and Beverage Classification System Background
posted by admin on 23 June 2009
Developing the Food and Beverage Classification System was a complex and time consuming process. There were a number of steps involved, broadly they were:
- reviewing other classification systems (nationally and internationally)
- taking advice from stakeholder advisory group and youth advisory group
- convening a technical advisory group to develop the technical aspects of the nutrient criteria
- developing a Food and Beverage Classification System for New Zealand education settings
- developing the resources and support programme for the classification system implementation.
Throughout this process the Ministry of Health has worked closely with the Ministry of Education.
Other Classification Systems
Two classification systems that were identified as being key resources were the Waitemata DHB Beverage Guidelines and the Fresh Tastes @ School programme run by New South Wales Health and NSW School Canteen Association. These organisations were generous enough to agree to the Ministry of Health using aspects of their work in the development of our FBCS.
A number of other existing school and early childhood education service food and beverage classification systems were identified. Most were not relevant to the New Zealand setting due to their divergent approaches to determining how food was classified. Many were often only applicable to their specific setting and few, if any, had been evaluated.
A stakeholder advisory group was convened to provide input into the planning and development of the framework and to identify key issues the technical group needed to consider. The stakeholder advisory group met twice over the course of 6 months.
The Ministry of Health also convened a group of young people to provide input into the design and implementation of the classification system, and to other relevant Healthy Eating-Healthy Action work. This group is called Rise e Tu. The input of children and young people to this initiative is crucial to gaining support and ensuring that it is relevant to young people. Rise e Tu members act as advocates for healthy change in their communities and lives.
The Nutrient Criteria
A technical advisory group was convened to develop the technical detail of the classification framework. Group members were selected on the basis of having a tertiary nutrition qualification and/or experience in developing classification systems for use with New Zealand children. This group met frequently for 8 months during 2006/2007.
The group agreed upon key overall approaches to developing the system. Given the differences in nutritional requirements and education settings, separate classification systems for early childhood education (ECE) services and schools were developed by the technical group. The schools' classification framework was developed first, followed by the framework for ECE services. A sub-group of technical group members with relevant expertise to the ECE setting developed specific nutrient criteria for that setting. All decisions were signed off by the entire group.
The Australian and Waitemata District Health Board systems were used for a starting point for the classification framework. The results from the 2002 National Children's Nutrition Survey and the Ministry of Health Food and Nutrition Guidelines for 0-2, 2-12-year-olds and adolescents were key Ministry of Health documents that were considered when developing the criteria. Other, non-Ministry data on children's diets was also considered. Food modelling was undertaken as the system was developed.
The prevention of obesity was a primary driver of this work. However, it was agreed that a healthy diet consists of many factors other than energy-density. Following this, other dietary factors that contribute to good health are also incorporated into the classification system. These include dietary variety, eating from the four food groups, reducing the amount of fat, salt and added sugar consumed, and increasing fibre consumption.
The Support Resources and Programme
The final classification system is a technical document. Schools and ECE services are not expected to interpret or use the nutrient criteria. The Ministry of Health has developed support resources for schools and ECE services that explain the classification system and provide advice to help schools and ECE services implement the system. These support resources were launched in July 2007. School and ECE service resource toolkits can be ordered from the Health Education website.
To further help implementation of the classification system, a support programme was developed. Current support includes the following:
- a telephone helpline for canteen and food preparation staff 0800 408 962
- a product registration scheme that involves food manufacturers registering products that fit the Food and Beverage Classification System everyday or sometimes criteria. Product listings are then available online and in hard copy buyers' guides that are distributed to schools and ECE services twice a year. See http://www.everyday-sometimes/ for the online listings