Affiliations: [a] WHO Collaborating Center for Food and Nutrition Policies, Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, University of Athens Medical School, 75 Mikras Asias Street, 11527 Athens, Greece | [b] Hellenic Health Foundation, Kaisareias 13 & Alexandroupoleos, 11527 Athens, Greece. e-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: Dietary traditions are an important part of cultural identity and the production of traditional foods may provide a considerable income to interested businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. Traditional foods, notably those from the Mediterranean area, earned a reputation for their nutritional quality, and should, therefore, be protected and supported. European law has recently provided a framework to promote the beneficial nutritional and health properties of foods, by allowing the communication of scientifically supported claims, after a standard evaluation procedure. European Commission Regulation 1924 of 2006 is intended to minimize consumer misleading and promote healthy dietary choices. In this context, we have investigated the potential of 194 traditional Greek foods to bear nutrition claims, by comparing their energy content and nutritional composition to the European specifications on a wide range of nutritional components, including protein, total fat and fatty acids, sugars, salt, dietary fiber, and certain vitamins and minerals. The average number of claims per traditional food was 5, with a range between 0 and 14. Overall, about 1,024 nutrition claims were potentially relevant for the 194 traditional foods studied. From those, about half were made on vitamins and minerals. Foods linked with the most claims were nuts and seeds. European Regulation on nutrition and health claims made on foods may provide an important tool for the sustainment of Mediterranean traditional foods, since those foods frequently have distinct nutritional qualities.