Will the WHO’s new nutrition rules inspire the EU?

BEUC NEWS - 03.03.2015

The marketing of food products to children is unbridled in the EU.

BEUC members’ tests have repeatedly found high levels of sugar, fat and salt in products aimed at kids, namely breakfast cereals, snacks, cereal bars and fast food sandwiches.

Voluntary initiatives – such as the EU Pledge – have brought limited and patchy improvements. If the EU is serious about tackling the obesity epidemic emerging among children, it should ensure they are not bombarded with advertisements praising low nutrient and highly calorific food. 1 in 3 child is either obese or overweight in the EU.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe recently published a set of nutrient profiles to determine which products can and cannot be marketed to children on the basis of their overall nutritional value.

For instance, the WHO recommends that breakfast cereals with more than 16 grams (g) of sugar per 100g should not be marketed to children.

BEUC strongly backs the WHO’s stance, particularly when industry-defined criteria – currently the only rules in the EU – allow products containing up to 30g of sugar per 100g to be marketed to kids. This ratio equates to 7.5 teaspoons.

Another proposal which we warmly welcome is to prohibit the marketing of all chocolate and sugar confectionery such as cereal, granola and muesli bars. In 2012, BEUC’s British member Which? tested seven cereal bars marketed to children and found all of them were loaded with sugar.

Our member Consumentenbond has joined recently a Dutch alliance to tackle marketing to children, proving the issue is still on consumer organisations’ radar.

BEUC is counting on EU Member States to endorse the WHO nutrient profiles and on the EU pledge to align its criteria with the WHO’s.

This proposal is also particularly timely as EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Mr Andriukaitis recently encouraged Member States to tighten marketing rules and make sure children grow up in an environment where the healthy choice is the easy one.

The European Commission is legally compelled by its 2006 regulation to publish its own nutrient profiles to help prevent sugar- or fat-loaded products from bearing healthy messages. However, the Commission has been failing to fulfil its obligations and the publication is still pending.

ENDS

Read our position paper on nutrition here.