Today we are celebrating the European Commission’s 10-year delay in adopting a public health measure asdelegated by the European legislator. Hip-Hip-Booo!!!
Nutritional profiles, 10 years in hiding
Nutritional profiles were to have been adopted by the European Commission no later than 19.1.09. This was in accordance with that prescribed in the Nutrition & Health Claims Regulation (NHC), which came into force 3 years earlier. (1) This was to prevent the labelling and advertising of junk-food (or HFSS, High Fat, Sugar and Salt) boasting ‘healthy’ prerogatives.
It was the European legislator’s intention to put an end to the great deception created by Big Food towards consumers, who are induced into buying junk food, believing that it is beneficial to their health. Given that in the absence of nutritional profiles, it is possible to promote the ‘virtues’ linked to the addition of synthetic minerals and vitamins, or fibres, to HFSS products. In the same way, this happens with breakfast cereal concoctions, or bars and sweets that are instead saturated with sugars and palm oil. So-called ‘Vegan’ foods which are loaded with salt or the junk food aimed at children (like Nesquik Opti-Start with its 75% sugars) are all foods whose consumption needs to be reduced to a minimum, precisely for nutritional and health needs. (2)
However, the European Commission has ignored its responsibilities. First under Manuel Barroso, then under Jean-Claude Juncker. Indeed even when instigated by europarliamentarians under the Ferrero lobby, as it was with the candidate governor of Piedmont, Alberto Cirio – Brussels has speculated that it will eliminate this provision.
Some Member States – such as France, Spain and England, and most recently Germany too – have in the meantime adopted health policies aimed at mitigating the prevalence of obesity, being overweight and other related diseases. But it is not enough. (3)
Europe-Italy, an unresolved health crisis
Europe talks without carrying through any initiatives of practical utility. It also ignores WHO recommendations, even those regarding the contrast of Big Food’s obscene commercial policies, which in fact continue to abuse advertising and social media in order to encourage the consumption of junk food.
In Italy, it goes from bad to worse, the dominant lobby insists on opposing these measures, with the support of the regime press that falsely depicts such measures as ‘attacks on the Made in Italy’ brand. Fake news. Although the public health crisis is overwhelming and also affects younger population groups, it is more apparent in Italy than anywhere else. (4)
So what should Consumers do
Consumer organisations have repeatedly called on the Commission to define nutrient profiles over the last decade. In 2018 BEUC (‘the European Consumers Organisation‘) and 11 of its national subsidiaries – including AltroConsumo in Italy – presented a series of examples of unhealthy foods marketed as ‘healthy’ within the internal market. But once again the Commission did not react.
‘By January 19th 2009, the Commission (…) shall establish specific nutritional profiles and conditions, including exemptions, which are to be met for the use of nutrition and health claims for foods and/or their categories.’ (Reg. EC 1924/06, Article 4.1)
The time has come to move from words to deeds. We must notify the European Commission of our formal request for it to fulfil its duty within a period of two months, with respect to which there should be no discretion (see above). Once this deadline has expired, in the event of inaction by Brussels, and within the subsequent two months, a so-called ‘Appeal in deficiency’ must be presented to the Court of Justice. (5)
Enough is enough#
(1) V. reg. CE 1924/06, article 4
(2) All the more when we consider the current spread of overweight and childhood obesity, and related diseases. See the previous article https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/obesità-infantile-una-sfida-in-salita
(3) On the incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, tumours and premature mortality associated with unbalanced diets and an excessive intake of sugar, salt and saturated fats see previous articles https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/diabete-emergenza-italia, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/indice-di-massa-corporea-e-patologie-cardiovascolari-una-ricerca-ne-evidenzia-le-implicazioni-anche-in-soggetti-sani, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/obesità-stretto-legame-con-11-tipi-di-cancro, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/troppo-sale-nella-dieta-causa-infarto-e-tumori-ecco-come-mettersi-al-sicuro, mitica https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/la-dieta-squilibrata-causa-un-decesso-su-5
(4) Data on childhood obesity in Italy is referred to on https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/obesità-infantile-l-esempio-inglese-per-l-italia.Compared to other EU countries, on https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/dieta-mediterranea-e-obesità-infantile-l-europa-sottosopra. Regarding the need to introduce a ‘Sugar Tax’, see https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/tassa-sulle-bevande-zuccherate-in-italia
(5) Cfr. TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), Articles 265 and 266. A relevant precedent for public health concerns the condemnation of the Commission to adopt a definition of endocrine disruptors (see https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/interferenti-endocrini-la-commissione-latita)