Robert Madelin, director general of the European Commission’s DG Health and Consumers, set up the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health five years ago. The aim was to bring together stakeholders for frank and open collaboration and action on promoting lifestyles.
“If I ever had any doubts about the food and drink industry’s desire to address the issues inherent in this age of safe, plentiful and varied foods, these were dispelled over the last five year, during with we have worked together to improve the healthy eating habits of Europe’s citizens,” said Madelin in an introduction to a new publication from the CIAA that record industry-wide initiatives and activities by individual firms.
The publication, called Promoting balanced diets and healthy lifestyles: Europe’s food and drink industry in action, available here.
The platform is now celebrating its fifth anniversary, and a dinner-debate was held in Brussels last night last night, at which the publication was launched.
The publication includes information on the industry-developed scheme for presenting nutritional information on packs, called GDAs (guidance daily amounts). GDAs were first introduced in 2006, as the industry recognised the need for a standard system for the EU but new legislation on this, which is still in the works, takes a number of years to be developed and implemented.
Not only has the format been embraced by food manufacturers across the EU, but a number of studies have indicated that many consumers find it easy to use.
Industry has also been addressing portion sizes, and there has been a strong focus on reformulating products to reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat levels. In the UK, for instance, it says more consumers are opting fo reformulated products.
“Market research in just five areas (dairy, baked goods, soft drinks, confectionery and crisps and snacks), showed that healthy eating options are now worth around £7m and retail sales of these healthier options have been growing at twice the rate of the category of the whole,” it says.
“Of these the most famous is probably the European Technology Platform Food for Life programme, established in 2005 under the auspices of the CIAA,” the confederation says.
Food for Life has identified three priority areas as being optimal development, wellness and ageing; intestinal health and immunity; and weight management and obesity.
Attention is also being given to responsible marketing and advertising, and an EU pledge to curb marketing messages of unhealthy foods directed at children has attracted industry signatories.
“I am particularly encouraged by the first outcomes of the initiatives by the current pledge signatories representing 60 per cent of the food and beverage advertising spend in the EU… It is my hope that more will now join the EU pledge initiative so we can reach in twelve months from now, coverage of at least 80 per cent of the food and beverage advertising spend in the EU,” said Madelin.
Food only makes up part of the picture when it comes to encouraging healthy lifestyles, however; it is well recognised that education and awareness and physical activity are crucial too.
“Unfortunately no silver bullet exists to solve the lifestyle challenges we face,” said Jesus Serafin Perez, CIAA president. “We have a long way to go to achieve the type of systemic change we need to create healthier communities in Europe – the ultimate goal.
“But we all, as European citizens and consumers, will ultimately benefit from such a change and Europe’s manufacturers remain strongly committed to that effort,” he said.