Vending industry defends its role in tackling obesity

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Obesity

The vending industry must stop being used as a scapegoat if answers
to the obesity crisis are to be found, claims EVA.

Responding to the European Commission Green paper Promoting healthy diets and physical activity: a European dimension for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases​, the European Vending Association said that as a flexible retail channel it was doing its part to combat obesity.

"We are doing our part in combating obesity,"​ said EVA director general Catherine Piana.

"This is done by being a founding member of the European Commission Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. We are now sending our answer to the Green paper to support our views."

Green papers are intended to open discussion on specific EU policy areas, with organisations and individuals invited to participate in the debate. In some cases they lead to subsequent legislation. The Commission published its green paper in response to rising obesity levels.

Over 14 million Europeans are obese or overweight, of which more than 3 million are children.

Obesity-related illnesses, which include heart disease and diabetes, account for up to 7 per cent of healthcare costs in the Union. In some Member States, over a quarter of the adult population is now obese.

The green paper makes it clear that the EC considers industry self-regulation the best way of dealing with the problem, something that EVA clearly agrees with.

"Industries know their customers,"​ said the association. "They can therefore develop self regulation schemes that will ensure their needs are satisfied.

"It is therefore a much more positive move than imposed legislation."

Indeed, EVA said that it regretted the ban of vending machines in France, with no consideration to vending as a flexible retail channel. "A ban does not prevent children from bringing food to school or buy the products fro elsewhere,"​ it said.

Fundamentally, EVA wants the Commission to adopt a strategy that does not seek to scapegoat one many of the products sold in vending machines. It says that products have to be treated equally, and in a context that takes into account other factors such as a balanced diet and exercise.

In addition, EVA questions the scientific data regarding the excessive intake of energy-dense snacks and sugar-sweetened soft drinks. It wants an evaluation put in place to assess the link between obesity and the intake of energy-dense snacks and sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

"The notion of 'excessive intake' is vague and very subjective, and it is unclear how it impacts directly on the BMI (Body Mass Index), and we know it cannot be the only factor. The other side of the equation (energy out) very much determines if the intake is excessive or not. Finally, we support the view that there is no such thing as a good or bad food, it all is a matter of appropriate quantities."

The European Vending Association represents the whole of the vending industry, from machine manufacturers through to ingredient suppliers. Its primary aim is to optimise the industry's commercial interests within the EU legislation and serve as a forum of discussion.

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