EU member states to draw up national plans for healthier food  composition by end of next year

EU member states to draw up national plans for healthier food composition by end of next year

The EU's food and drink industry association, FoodDrinkEurope (FDE), has welcomed a call by EU health ministers for member states to draw up national blueprints to improve the composition of food by the end of 2017.

The EU's Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO), which brings together ministers from all 28 member states, said on 17 June that "the healthy choice should be the easy choice" for diets to improve.

"To achieve such an objective, a holistic approach is needed: physical and social environments that support and encourage healthy patterns of food consumption as well as objective nutrition information and public-health driven education are key for policies and actions at national and local level," EPSCO said.

The Brussels-based FDE said EPSCO's conclusions "acknowledge the need for a holistic approach and recognise that this process cannot be successful without the engagement and collaboration of industry".

However, the FDE said further work by EU leaders "should not result in the classification of "good" and "bad" food, as this would not be correct from a nutritional point of view". "It is also recognised that quantity and frequency of consumption play a role in a balanced diet and that cultural diversity and dietary patterns and preferences differ across the EU," the FDE said. 

According to EPSCO, to reach the majority of the population, in particular children and vulnerable groups, "more action is needed on mainstream products that are consumed by the majority of the European population on a daily basis".

EPSCO said EU member states should "have a national plan for food product improvement in place by the end of 2017, either as a new plan or integrated into an existing plan, in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders, to make the healthy choice easier for consumers by 2020, through an increased availability of food with lower levels of salt, saturated fats, added sugars, energy value and, where appropriate, through reduced portion sizes and to provide information on the nutritional composition of processed foods."

However, EPSCO said local and traditional foods, "including geographical indications, intrinsically tied to a country's culture and heritage, could be subject to special consideration, taking into account the national situation, for example their contribution to the overall dietary intake".