European food makers have welcomed the EC's efforts to recognise companies that have made commitments to combat obesity.
Markos Kyprianou, European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, told delegates at the CIAA's recent Congress in Brussels that he wanted to recognise food companies that are addressing the problem.
This recognition forms part of the EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, initiated by Commissioner Kyprianou nearly two years ago. The purpose of the platform is to create a forum for action at the European level.
The move to publicly recognise those that have made progress has therefore been widely welcomed especially by those earmarked for praise.
"This is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved through the European Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, a voluntary approach to reverse the rise in obesity, particularly among children," said Tim Mobsby, Kellogg Europe president.
"Kellogg has always been committed to promoting healthy lifestyles and continues to take action through the Platform by providing consumers with nutritional information and advertising in a responsible manner, and reformulating products and launching new formulas."
Indeed, the European food industry believes it has responded positively to the initiative through a revolution in product reformulation, education, labelling, research, physical education and also responsible advertising and marketing.
Kellogg for example claims to offer consumers a range of nutritional information, including voluntary nutritional labelling on packaging. It also says that it was one of the first companies to include new nutritional labelling based on GDAs in the UK in February 2005, and is now a frontrunner within the European industry in implementing a voluntary EU-wide simplified nutrition-labelling scheme based on GDAs adopted by CIAA in June 2006.
Food companies such as Kellogg are keen to show lawmakers that self-regulation works. This was a key issue at the CIAA conference. For example, CIAA president Jean Martin used his opening speech to say that Europe's food and drink industry is still wrapped in red tape that hinders innovation.
European approval procedures for additives and for 'novel foods' for example represent a disincentive to important research and development investments in Europe, and the food and drink industry remains one of the most regulated sectors in Europe.
"Better regulation, including industry self-regulation, can deliver benefits to European consumers faster and create more jobs and growth than old-style outright regulation," he said, citing the example of the EU's Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health as a positive experiment in self-regulation and "catalyst for action".
The platform has therefore been seen as a largely positive step in the right direction. The idea is to work under the leadership of the European Commission and to provide an example, which others will choose to follow across Europe, of coordinated but autonomous action by different parts of society to deal with the many aspects of the problem.
The Platform meets every two months for plenary meetings so as to monitor overall progress and discuss issues.
"Today's event is a clear indication that the Platform is delivering results," said Mobsby.
"Kellogg will continue to work with other stakeholders and drive industry initiatives such as a simplified voluntary nutritional labelling scheme based on Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs), in order to help consumers make healthierchoices."