Med diet symbol set for launch in US

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Mediterranean diet

A new Mediterranean diet symbol is set to be launched in coming
months, allowing US manufacturers to flag up products that fit into
this increasingly influential diet plan.

Due to be introduced by nutrition group Oldways, the Med Mark is expected to enjoy even greater success than the organization's popular Whole Grains Stamp, introduced in 2005 and already appearing on over 1,000 products. "The Whole Grains program has been wildly successful, but whole grains are an ingredient. With the Mediterranean diet, we're talking about whole groups of foods. The Med Mark has a much wider scope,"​ said Oldways president Dun Gifford. The new stamp, which is in its final stages of development, will be available for use on products that meet the traditional Mediterranean guidelines set out by Oldways. The nutritional profiles of products submitted for the program will be examined against these guidelines, which promote foods rich in cereals, fruits, vegetables, and olive oil. Other common foods of the Mediterranean diet include bread, pasta, rice, couscous and potatoes; olives, avocados and grapes; eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, nuts and beans; and cheese and yogurt. Moderate consumption of fish and poultry is also encouraged, whereas consumption of red meat is advised only a few times a month. A growing body of science has linked the diet of the people of southern Europe to longer life, less heart disease and protection against some cancers. Encouraged by the science backing this simple and tasty way of eating, Oldways first introduced the Mediterranean diet as a nutritional concept in 1993. At the time, the organization launched a Mediterranean nutritional pyramid, fashioned on the idea of the US government's dietary pyramid. The pyramid was supported by the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization. The copyrighted pyramid has since appeared in millions of impressions in nutrition books, newspapers, magazines and television, and has even been licensed for use on some food products. But the launch of the Med Mark could take the dietary lifestyle to the next level, allowing consumers to easily identify products that qualify. The new symbol looks likely to take the shape of an amphora - a jar traditionally used in the Mediterranean region to carry commodities such as wine or oil during trading. The colors of the symbol will be "straightforward"​ to avoid confusion on already overloaded product packaging, and will focus on the reddish-brown terra cotta color. The Med Mark, which will be enclosed in a package-friendly upright rectangle, will also prominently feature the letter 'M', together with the words "Mediterranean Diet", and the website address of a new Oldways site. This will provide information about the diet, including a summary of the primary scientific studies that support its healthfulness. According to Gifford, the new website is due to be launched within the next 45 days, and Oldways hopes to coincide this with the introduction of the Med Mark. The group is currently finalizing its product screening guidelines, which are proving challenging due to the wide scope of foods and ingredients covered by the diet plan. "We don't want to focus on just ingredients with the Med diet.It's important to stress that the health benefits come when following the dietary pattern as a whole. It's all about the whole package, not any single food,"​ said Gifford. "The point in developing this program is not to be absolute. I see this as a rolling project, as opposed to a finite one. We have learnt the value of being flexible through our previous projects - you can never know everything from the start,"​ he told FoodNavigator-USA.com. Participation fees for Oldways' Med Mark have not yet formally been announced, but are expected to be similar to the group's fee schedule for its Whole Grains Stamp. For more information, click here​. To view Oldways' Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, click here​.

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