Re: Food matters
3 July 2012
Your editor’s choice, ‘Food matters’, published in the BMJ dated 16 May 2012, cites that “in Europe, legislation on food labelling acknowledges the failure of voluntary agreements.” But, this view fails to acknowledge the true objectives of the recently adopted EU Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers, which were, amongst others, “to simplify and harmonise information for consumers” across the 27 Member State bloc. Contrary to your statement, the new EU Regulation in fact provides a framework within which to formalise and harmonise the range of voluntary efforts that are being rolled out by food business operators– large and small – across Europe in providing factual, ‘at-a-glance’ nutrition information on a per portion basis via the GDA scheme (Guideline Daily Amounts, http://gda.ciaa.eu/asp2/guideline-daily-amounts.asp), thus enabling consumers to make smart, informed food choices in line with their individual diets and lifestyles.
A lot of work has been undertaken within the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Health and Physical Activity, created in 2005 under the aegis of the European Commission Directorate General for Health and Consumers and within the EU Platform’s national counterparts. FoodDrinkEurope was a founding member of the EU Platform and both the organisation and its members actively participate in its work delivering a host of voluntary commitments covering not only food operators’ core areas of business (reformulation, ‘on pack’ consumer information and responsible marketing codes, progress on the implementation of which is monitored and clearly communicated), but also covering health in the workplace commitments and promoting physical activity, etc.
Significant efforts have been made by the food industry in Europe to achieve the critical mass and consistency in the rollout of the GDA labelling scheme on a voluntary basis. FoodDrinkEurope was instrumental in the progressive implementation of the GDA scheme across the European Union, including by small and medium sized enterprises. Since 2006, when operators introduced the GDA scheme, FoodDrinkEurope has been providing ongoing support and guidance directly and indirectly to thousands of manufacturers and food retailers, including the development of the ‘GDA labelling style guide’ that has provided tools for the implementation of the GDA scheme.
The fact that GDAs are the most common front of pack nutrition labeling that consumers find represents a huge achievement not only for the industry but also in terms of value of voluntary efforts per se.
So, in short, the latest EU Regulation on food labelling endorses (not replaces!) the value of food industry voluntary efforts, and enshrines these efforts within a harmonized framework across the Single Market.
To end, and reiterate the point made in your quote from Susan Jebb’s editorial, let us agree that there is not one single, ‘silver bullet’ solution to tackling the complex problem of obesity and non-communicable diseases; this will require a mix of different components in the ‘policy toolkit’ and, equally importantly, a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to drive change, with each stakeholder playing his or her respective role individually and collaboratively with other partners. Europe’s food industry understands the important role that it has to play in helping to be part of the solution and is responding to the challenge in a number of ways through not only industry actions but also together with stakeholders to help create positive behavioural change among consumers.
Director General, FoodDrinkEurope
Competing interests: FoodDrinkEurope represents the European food and drink industry.
FoodDrinkEurope, Avenue des Arts 43 - 1040 Bruxelles - Belgium
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