Dr Josephine Wills, the director general of the Brussels-based non-profit organisation, the European Food Information Council, responded to a story on FoodNavigator yesterday that questioned the Platform’s success given rising EU obesity rates, by pointing out its many successes.
“While it is not possible to attribute directly the many activities of Platform members through their commitments to overall figures of obesity, without those collective activities the rising rates of obesity may have been higher,” she said.
“There are many significant advantages resulting from its existence, that otherwise would likely not have materialised.”
Dr Wills referenced Despina Spanou, the Platform’s chair and special advisor to the European Commission’s Director General for Health and Consumers (DG Sanco), who while acknowledging that obesity rates had not fallen across the EU, noted the platform was defined by, “its emphasis on action”.
Evaluation of its performance conducted in mid-2010 found, “81 per cent of Platform members believed a cross-sectoral approach to the issue of obesity had been a benefit.”
Dr Wills said EUFIC itself had made seven commitments since 2005. “We see considerable outputs mentioned in the evaluation report that are worth highlighting,” she said.
The 2010 evaluation report itself stated that without the Platform many actions to improve the health and nutrition of Europeans would, “otherwise not have happened, at least not at the same level of ambition, coverage, and timeliness”.
In particular the report notes, “in advertising and marketing to children, self-regulation has been very effective at limiting the exposure of children to adverts for high fat, sugar and salt foods.”
Indeed at a conference on EU nutrition and lifestyle in Brussels last week, Will Gilroy, the communications director at the World Federation of Advertisers noted that EU-led initiatives contributed to under-12’s exposure to TV ads falling 36 per cent; and 60 per cent for products deemed non-nutritious.
At the same event, Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt noted many parties wanted even greater reductions, but backed the programmes in place and observed, "Finger-pointing helps no-one."
Dr Wills said EU-wide formulation had been “significant”, with the report noting reductions in sodium, fat and sugar at levels typically between 25-50 per cent.
She added: “The Platform has inspired the development of national platforms in several member states, such as Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal and The Netherlands – which have tailored Platform objectives to more local goals.”
“EUFIC’s own commitments relate to its mission. Amongst them, we have increased outreach of our science-based information material on-line by adding a further six European languages, producing over seven million visits to www.eufic.org in 2010.”
Dr Wills said the Platform should better communicate its progress and successes and called for greater analyses of its commitments rather than its processes.
The European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, said recently: "I am pleased to see that Platform members have agreed to scale up their action. This demonstrates commitment to the goals we set out together to fight the increasing trend of obesity, to address poor dietary habits and to increase physical activity levels in the EU."
The 2010 Platform evaluation can be found here.