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GM free, palm oil-free Europe. Analysis

GM free, palm oil-free. European consumers demand ‘free from’ food products 

No GMO’s, no palm oil. These are the fundamental demands by European consumers, which focus their attention towards the integrity of the supply chain and health. And a pronounced growing trend of ‘free from’ food products. Along with the so-called superfoods, those containing substances which are seen as beneficial. Studies from Brussels, Zurich and Milan.

GM free, palm oil-free. The final verdict

Consumer preferences in the EU towards ‘free from’ food products have emerged from the research enacted from the federal Polytech of Zurich (ETH Zurich) and from EUFIC, the European Food information Council, a nonprofit  with its headquarters in Brussels (which is indeed financed by the European Commission and the European food and drink industry).

Researchers have approached two thousand consumers in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland and France. By submitting them, through an online survey, the labels of various popular food products in both versions, with and without the ‘free from’ notation:

– ‘GMO-free’ for oil, corn and chocolate,

– ‘palm oil free’ for margarine, cream based spreads and chocolate, 

– ‘lactose free’ for cheese, milk and yogurt,

– ‘gluten free’ for bread, pasta and biscuits.

A disproportionate comparison when taking a closer look. Since lactose and gluten are the cause of food allergies and intolerances in vulnerable subjects, meanwhile palm oil and GMO’s are simply low cost ingredients with which everyone can easily do without.

The ‘free from’ perceived as beneficial

Responses to the survey have clearly confirmed that consumers – the Millennials, especially – don’t want to eat food that contains palm oil nor GMO’s, which are considered unhealthy. A headstrong stand all the more in Poland and in France. 

The views of the French population are due, in the researchers’ opinion, to the hostility of national policies towards palm oil and GMO’s. An erroneous consideration as far as the s.c. Franken-foodsince the French government has admitted the deliberate release into the environment of novel GMO’s without prior risk assessments or authorizations. 

In Poland a caution towards food that contains gluten and lactose would be more common, inexplicably considered as less healthy than the ones without them.

Individuals with a minor knowledge in nutrition, according to the research, tend to place a greater confidence in ‘free from’ labels. Because of their lack of familiarity in distinguishing the properties of food with other information such as the list of ingredients and the nutrition declaration.

A clear and loud signal

Europe does not want GMO’s in its plate. This should be understood primarily by the operators that keep using GMO feed for animals from which milk and cheese, meat and cold cuts come from. Not just basic price products but also products of excellence, with attributes of specialties that vary from PDO’s to PGI’s to farm-to-table goods to be bought at the Farmers’ markets.

As for palm oil, it is now clear that European consumers don’t want anything to do with it. The sale of ‘palm oil free’ foods,  in Italy, has marked a leap forward of 17,6% for the year closed in June 2017. (1) Evidence is overwhelming, and the opposition to palm oil is spreading like wildfire throughout Europe. France, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden, to name a few countries.

A loud and clear signal of which Big Food – partner to the European Palm Oil Alliance that commissioned the study (2) – has to take into account. In common with EUFIC members, that have also participated in the study, which include the major users of palm oil, such as Abbott Nutrition, Bunge, Cargill, Cereal Partners, Coca-Cola, Dow Seeds, DSM, Ferrero, General Mills, Mondelez Europe, Mars, Nestle, PepsiCo, Pinar ET, Tereos, Ulker, Unilever.

Dario Dongo and Marta Strinati


(1) According to revelations carried out by the Observatory Immaggino Nielsen-GS1 Italy on 46.600 mass-market products and published in February 2018

(2) On ScienceDirect

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