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Nine food industry giants – Coca Cola, Ferrero, Danone, McDonald’s, Auchan, Carrefour, Casino, Monoprix and Unilever – have each signed an individual charter setting out their commitment to “nutritional progress” within the framework of the French Ministry of Health’s anti-obesity campaign.

The charters signed by food manufacturers focus on reducing sugar and salt levels in their products while retailers have endeavoured to give a more prominent place to their fruit and vegetable counters. However, no provision has been made to sanction companies who fall short of the commitments made in the charters.

France’s food industry trade body, ANIA, had lobbied against the drawing up of individual charters preferring a “charter by sector” approach such as one covering dairy products, chocolates, drinks and so on. The individual charters, the ANIA has argued, runs the risk of creating a divide between the major manufacturers and smaller scale producers. ANIA also warns against the charters being used as a fresh outlet in firms’ sales policies, the health benefits of products now being their major selling point.

Meanwhile, several food industry firms have refused to draw up a charter claiming the government has rushed the initiative in order to garner voters support ahead of the first round of the France’s presidential election next month.