Czech Republic moves to set nutrient profiles for food sold in schools

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

If passed, the nutrient profiles would apply to all food sold and advertised in Czech schools, excluding meals served in canteens, which fall under separate legislation.
If passed, the nutrient profiles would apply to all food sold and advertised in Czech schools, excluding meals served in canteens, which fall under separate legislation.

Related tags Nutrition Snack

In the wake of the European Parliament's no vote last month, the Czech Republic has drawn up a draft decree to apply nutrient profiles on food sold and advertised in schools and ban foods that exceed maximum levels for sugar, salt and fat.

"In order to effectively prevent chronic nutrition-related diseases, it is proposed to restrict the promotion, offer and sale of foods containing ingredients whose excessive daily intake is inappropriate; these are primarily fats, saturated fatty acids, simple sugars and salt," ​reads the decree.

“Only foods whose nutritional composition complies with the principles of healthy nutrition will be authorised for sale in schools and school facilities. These are foods that do not contain caffeine or trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated fats, and are not energy drinks or stimulating beverages."

The draft decree​ concerns foods and beverages that are sold and advertised to children and pupils in schools but does not affect food served in school cafeterias, which is regulated under a different legislation. 

The member state's announcement comes as the European Parliament recently voted​ to scrap nutrient profiles due to the serious and persistent problems”​ involved in implementation as well as possible market distortion. However, the draft decree is in line with the country’s Education Act, and has no significant impact on international trade, it reads.

The result of the EU vote in early April left public health campaigners and even some food firms disappointed, and so the Czech draft decree has been welcomed.

Pauline Castres, Food Policy officer told FoodNavigator it was an excellent initiative, critical to ensuring lunch meals and other foods and drinks available in schools are nutritious and tasty.

"Governments should do everything in their power to deter children from snacking on unhealthy foods. Besides setting strict nutrition standards, authorities must tackle marketing to children. Our little ones are exposed everywhere they go: screens at home, food at school, ads in supermarkets, brands on sports fields, etc. It is encouraging to see some member states are willing to legislate to improve people’s health."

The cap of 10 g of added sugars per 100 g of breakfast cereals is "rightfully close" to the 15 g cap set by WHO Europe, she added.

Nutrient profiles are aimed at ensuring health claims can only be made on healthy foods that meet certain nutritional requirements for salt, sugar and fat. They were written into the EU's 2006 nutrition and health claims register (NHCR) but never came about as debate raged as to whether food such as cheese - high in fat - or fruit juice - high in fructose - should be included.

According to the Czech decree, fruit and vegetables as well as fruit juices without added sugars will be allowed, but processed fruit and vegetables must contain at least 50 g of fruit per 100 g of finished product. Dried fruit and nuts may not contain any added sugars - this includes concentrated fruit or vegetable juice if used for its sweetening properties.

The decree would also see sweeteners banished, except in sugar-free gum, tea and non-alcoholic drinks with extracts. Energy drinks would be banned.

Dairy products, including milk, yoghurt and quark could contain a maximum of 11 g per 100 g and 5 g of fat.

Salt levels in cheese would be capped at 2 g per 100 g and 1.8 g for bread.

Pastries could have a maximum of 15 g of sugar and 10 g of fat.

“Sandwich-type bakery products"​ sold in schools shall not include mayonnaise, dressings, mustard or ketchup, rads the decree, while for products without these condiments, levels are capped at 10 g of sugar, 20 g fat and 1 g salt per 100 g of finished product.

Member states and the Commission have been invited to comment on the decree.

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