This article focuses on the Brexit negotiations that will have to take place before grand rhetorical promises in the UK are revealed to be achievable political realities or simply pipe dreams. For surely we can better predict the outcome, if we better understand the process.
Earlier this year five Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland) sent a letter requesting that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set a dietary reference value for sugars and, in particular, added sugars. In 2010 EFSA published an opinion on setting reference values on the total carbohydrates and fiber but did not set a reference value for added sugars, although it was noted that excessive consumption of sugars contributes to weight gain. In their request, the Nordic countries asked whether EFSA’s 2010 opinion can be revised in light of new scientific evidence confirming the efficacy of limiting added sugars intake.
While the EU remains divided on the added value of nutrient profiling, the WHO has already started promoting it as a useful tool to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods to children. In 2015 it adopted a nutrient profile model covering 17 food categories and setting thresholds for total fat, saturated fat, total sugars, added sugars and salt. Any product exceeding one of these thresholds should not be permitted for marketing to children. The WHO model faced fierce criticism from the food industry, yet some governments have already admitted they may incorporate it into national legislation (Switzerland, Slovenia).
In February 2016, 22 EU Member States led by the Netherlands adopted a Roadmap on Food Product Improvement. Reducing energy intake (salt, saturated fats, and sugars) is one of the cornerstones of this Roadmap. All supply chain actors are requested to contribute to the objectives of this Roadmap.
In June 2016 the European Commission launched an evaluation process to determine whether establishing nutrient profiles to govern the use of health and nutrition claims on food products could have an added value. Nutrient profiles define specific thresholds for several nutrients (e.g. sugars, saturated fats and salt), above which a food product should not be able to bear health or nutrition claims.
This is probably the most alarming development for food companies as it has a direct impact on the business and can lead to a spike in operating costs and decrease in sales, if the price of a tax is passed on to consumers
Communicating in a crisis situation has become extremely complex, if not tricky. Speed seems to be the main KPI for journalists pushing out their take on what’s going on. Social media makes every single individual a potential reporter. Within minutes a crisis situation may well be the most trending topic for the day, and the next.
Those who have worked within, or with associations in the EU bubble will quickly agree that that experience can be as rewarding as it is challenging. Surely, for companies or national interest groups, having a voice speak on behalf of an entire sector will often increase the chances of their issues being properly addressed by policy makers. Yet the road to a clear joint position can be very long and winding.