CIAA re-elects Martin, pushes for better self-regulation

By Anthony Fletcher in Brussels

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Drink industry, European union, Europe

CIAA president Jean Martin, elected for a third term of office by
the confederation's board of directors, used last week's Congress
to call for better regulation of the food industry.

Thanking members for their confidence, Martin spoke about the need to build on what CIAA has worked on over the past few years.

And he used his opening speech at the CIAA's Congress in Brussels to call on European institutions to actively promote what he called 'better regulation' as a means of enhancing the food and drink industry's competitiveness and directly benefit European consumers.

"It's often forgotten, and regulators rarely acknowledge it, but the food and drink industry - almost 300,000 companies, 99 per cent of which are SME's - is Europe's largest manufacturing sector, largest manufacturing employer and one of Europe's largest export engines at a time when all you ever seem to hear about are a shortage of jobs and slow erosion of competitiveness,"​ he said.

And while he welcomed the European Commissions recent push for 'better regulation', he said that Europe's food and drink industry is still wrapped in red tape that hinders innovation and hurts Europe's competitiveness.

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"​.

Martin's speech perfectly set the tone of the CIAA Congress, which finished on Friday. There was unanimous acceptance among members that the food industry has a responsibility to the health and wellbeing of consumers, but also that the sector should be trusted more to act responsibly.

There was also a widespread opinion that while the industry might have made mistakes in the past in terms of nutrition, it is now making real progress in working towards improving public health.

"We welcome this debate, because we recognise that there is a problem, because we know that diet is part of the problem, and because we are part of the solution,"​ said Martin.

He said that the Congress would demonstrate that Europe's food and drinks industries are already delivering on their Commitments under the EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, initiated by Commissioner Kyprianou nearly two years ago, through a revolution in product reformulation, education, labelling, research, physical education and also responsible advertising and marketing.

"I'd like in particular to highlight a CIAA nutrition labelling recommendation adopted in June this year and backed by several of the biggest food and drink companies in Europe,"​ he said.

"This improved labelling programme is already being rolled out in EU markets as we speak. It will slice through the fog in the ongoing obesity debate by giving consumers front-of-pack, science-based labels on the energy content of popular foods, empowering people to make better-informed food choices every time they reach to buy something in a shop."

In addition, 11 companies representing approximately €61 billion in annual sales in Europe, or roughly 7 per cent of all sales in our industry, reported that they had put more than 4,000 new product reformulations or innovations on the market over the past three years.

Martin said that these new or reformulated products represent on average nearly two-fifths of all the food and beverage products these companies sell to European consumers; and one in three companies say they have gone even further, reformulating at least half of their products in 2005 and 2006.

"We are delivering increased choice, not only by reformulating products for lower levels of sugar, fat, salt and calories and selling things in smaller portions but also by developing new productsfor example functional foods that can actually reduce cholesterol, improve digestion and make people feel fuller, longer, with fewer calories than before,"​ he said.

"Healthy foods are the fastest growing part of our business. They're what consumers want. And they're what we are delivering. Voluntarily. Responsibly. And eagerly."

Martin will serve as CIAA president until October 2008.

Related topics: Market Trends

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