Industry efforts help to tackle obesity and non-communicable diseases
Encouraging consumers to eat a balanced diet and lead a healthy lifestyle is a major challenge for society as a whole and is influenced by many different socio-economic and environmental factors. Nutrition and health is increasingly on the agenda of public health authorities and policymakers, and Europe’s food manufacturers recognise that they have a role to play in encouraging better diets, fostering better nutritional choices and promoting healthier lifestyles.
Throughout 2012, Europe’s food and drink manufacturers reaffirmed their commitment to improving healthy eating choices for consumers by being a major contributor to the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, providing a range of voluntary initiatives in areas such as reformulation, responsible marketing and advertising and consumer information.
Food industry commits to new efforts on voluntary GDAs
In November 2012, FoodDrinkEurope renewed its GDA nutrition labelling commitment under the EU Platform, amid efforts among its membership to provide consistent, factual and meaningful front of pack nutritional information in line with the new requirements of the Food Information to Consumers Regulation adopted in October 2011.
Re-affirming this commitment encouraged manufacturers to continue to provide simple, objective and factual information ‘on pack’ across all markets in the EU, thereby enabling consumers to better manage their individual diets.
While the new Regulation provides for mandatory nutritional information ‘on pack’, this renewed commitment of FoodDrinkEurope goes beyond what is required by law, with manufacturers agreeing to continue to provide voluntary GDA nutritional information on the ‘front of pack’ of their products to equip consumers to make more informed food choices.
Nu-Age Project for Healthy Ageing
Additionally, as part of the food and drink industry’s commitment to reformulation under the EU Platform, FoodDrinkEurope is taking part in the EU funded NU-AGE project, which studies the specific dietary needs of healthy ageing. In 2012, FoodDrinkEurope developed an analysis of current EU legislation on food-related issues, diet and health, which will feed into scientific research and policy recommendations that address the specific dietary needs of an ever increasing elderly population.
Discriminatory food taxation: not the right tool
Throughout 2012, FoodDrinkEurope advised against the introduction of additional discriminatory taxes on foods in several markets across Europe under the pretext of ‘addressing public health’. Against the backdrop of today’s tough economic climate, FoodDrinkEurope and its members believe that food taxes are the wrong tool at the wrong time.
In this context, industry welcomed the Danish government’s decision to abolish its discriminatory food tax on saturated fat, as well as its plans to extend the chocolate tax. Cumbersome to implement, the tax created administrative and bureaucratic burdens for companies, generating higher food prices for consumers, an increase in cross-border trade and ultimately, put local jobs at stake.
The fight against obesity and moves towards better nutrition remain of fundamental importance and require a comprehensive approach to changing the behaviours, diets and lifestyles of consumers. FoodDrinkEurope will continue to work on collaborative actions where industry works together with governments, public health organisations, civil society representatives and others, to help bring about systemic behavioural change among consumers.
Nutrition and health claims on foods
The establishment of an EU-wide list of approved health claims on foods in December 2012 marked a positive step towards providing more certainty and clarity for consumers, while creating a level-playing on which operators can compete to innovate. Food manufacturers are looking forward to further improvements in the health claims process to direct research and development in the desired direction and strengthen industry innovation in the future.
FoodDrinkEurope also supported the adoption of the proposal amending the nutrition claims annex including the ‘no added salt’ claim in October 2012. This means that manufacturers can make a ‘no added salt’ claim on a product which, in turn, allows food business operators to communicate about the specific nutritional content composition of the food.
Providing food information to consumers
FoodDrinkEurope, together with EuroCommerce, developed a Guidance document on the new Food Information to Consumers Regulation to help companies better prepare for the label changes needed to comply with new EU labelling rules in a harmonised and consistent way. The Guidance is an effort to reach common understanding of the legislation at the EU level, to ensure its uniform implementation and to prevent any distortions of competition.
In an evermore digital era, in 2012 FoodDrinkEurope and its members increasingly explored the opportunities and challenges of providing digital information to consumers, something that will no doubt form a big part of the labelling debate of the future.