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The involvement of consumers in the development of dietary guidelines has been promoted by national and international bodies. Yet, few best practice guidelines have been established to assist with such involvement.
Qualitative semi-structured interviews explored stakeholders’ beliefs about consumer involvement in dietary guideline development.
Interviews were conducted in six European countries: the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Serbia, Spain and the UK.
Seventy-seven stakeholders were interviewed. Stakeholders were grouped as government, scientific advisory body, professional and academic, industry or non-government organisations. Response rate ranged from 45 % to 95 %.
Thematic analysis was conducted with the assistance of NVivo qualitative software. Analysis identified two main themes: (i) type of consumer involvement and (ii) pros and cons of consumer involvement. Direct consumer involvement (e.g. consumer organisations) in the decision-making process was discussed as a facilitator to guideline communication towards the end of the process. Indirect consumer involvement (e.g. consumer research data) was considered at both the beginning and the end of the process. Cons to consumer involvement included the effect of vested interests on objectivity; consumer disinterest; and complications in terms of time, finance and technical understanding. Pros related to increased credibility and trust in the process.
Stakeholders acknowledged benefits to consumer involvement during the development of dietary guidelines, but remained unclear on the advantage of direct contributions to the scientific content of guidelines. In the absence of established best practice, clarity on the type and reasons for consumer involvement would benefit all actors.