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Combating Unhealthy diets

The City University Foods Industry Report, widely covered by the UK media this week, claims that food companies have not taken significant action to improve diets.

Anticipating health trends

The study analysed company reports, accounts and websites up to autumn 2005. Unilever was the exception among manufacturers, singled out by researchers for "anticipating trends in health." The report also mentions Unilever's strong reference to health in its CSR value statements.

At the heart of Vitality

Health and hygiene are at the heart of Unilever's Vitality mission. Through our products, we aim help people enjoy food, enjoy health and enjoy life.

At the forefront of developments, Unilever is working in partnership with groups such as the World Heart Federation (WHF) to find ways of tackling global health and nutritional issues.

Unilever introduced the first polyunsaturated margarines (Becel and Flora) to improve heart health back in the 1960s. And the Unilever Health Institute has become renowned for its work on nutrition and health.

Today around 20% of the entire Foods spend is devoted to Health and Wellbeing. This has led to innovations such Flora/Becel Pro.activ spreads and mini-drinks that help lower cholesterol and control blood pressure.

Knorr Vie drinks pack the equivalent of 200 grammes of fruit and vegetables into small 'shots', while Anapurna iodised salt addresses nutrition deficiencies in Asia and Africa.

Nutritional labelling

Unilever has always manufactured appropriate pack sizes for its products and has undertaken an extensive review of the nutritional composition of its foods and beverages portfolio. Our Nutrition Enhancement Programme has been improving product formulations without compromising safety, quality, or taste.

During 2006, this will result in Unilever eliminating 15 000 tonnes of trans-fats, 10 000 tonnes of saturated fats, 2 000 tonnes of sodium and 10 000 tonnes of sugars from our portfolio.

Nutritional information and labelling helps consumers make informed choices. Unilever brands provide extensive nutrition and health information on packs, through websites and via carelines. All nutrition and health claims are science-based.

Unilever has adopted a global policy on nutrition labelling which will give information on eight nutrients (calories, protein, carbohydrates – with sugars separately, fat – with saturates separately, fibre and sodium). The company will also provide information on Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs).

Personal vitality

Unilever has devoted significant resource to promoting nutrition and health education for the past 30 years and in 2005 sponsored the Flora London Marathon.

Unilever adopted its own 'Responsible Marketing Principles for Food & Beverages' in 2003. These have recently been updated to include a voluntary restriction on marketing directly to children under the age of six. Via its Lipton brand, Unilever is also a signatory to the UNESDA voluntary commitments on marketing and advertising.

The personal vitality of our employees is also important – and global programmes have been implemented to promote nutrition, health, hygiene and a good work/life balance. This includes healthy menus in canteens, opportunities to exercise and occupational health assessments.

All in all, Unilever has done a lot to address the issues raised in the report, but along with others in the food industry, recognises that there is more to do.

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