EU food and drink industry marks four years of progress in tackling obesity under EU Platform

Date

15 May 2009

Sections

Health & Consumers

At an event marking the Fourth Anniversary of the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health (DPAH), the CIAA (Confederation of food and drink industries of the EU) celebrated important industry progress in helping to tackle obesity and non-communicable diseases across Europe.

Established in 2005 by the European Commission’s Health and Consumers department (DG SANCO), the EU Platform aims to tackle multi-factorial issues affecting diet and health. Industry recognises its important role in this area and is fully committed to the process. As such, CIAA represents one of the longest standing, largest EU Platform members accounting for almost 40% of all commitments made.

Food and drink industry commitments focus mainly on consumer information, product reformulation and innovation and industry involvement in joint stakeholder initiatives to help tackle obesity – specifically in areas of consumer education and physical activity. Figures from the latest draft EU Annual Platform Report 2009 highlight significant progress made by industry already in each of these areas.
With regard to consumer information, the voluntary, industry labelling scheme based on Guideline Daily
Amounts (GDAs) today provides an increased quantity and range of nutrition information to consumers.

The GDA system helps consumers better understand the nutritional content of foods and to make more informed choices in line with their individual lifestyles. Eleven of the largest food and drink companies in Europe are already rolling out the scheme, and by year end, GDAs will appear on 100% of all of their branded products. Many major retailers are also implementing the system, with SMEs following suit.

Advances in the area of reformulation have also been important in the fight to tackle non-communicable
diseases. One snapshot example in this area concerns reduced salt foods. Over the past four years, several CIAA member companies have reduced the levels of salt in breakfast cereals, cooking sauces, rice products and soups to name but a few - and in some cases, by as much as 30%! In addition, 56% of companies producing savoury snacks today in Europe have lines with reduced saturated fat levels.

While such developments respond to consumer demands for healthier foods, they have been accelerated
under the Platform.

The EU food and drink industry has also been working with other Platform members to develop a joint stakeholder programme. The pilot ‘Green Lace’ project focuses on physical activity and education to help tackle childhood obesity. Scheduled for roll out in 2010 in four EU Member States (Greece, Hungary, Italy and Portugal), the programme will target 11-15 year olds via information campaigns making physical activity cool for kids. Young people will be identified with the project by wearing a green lace.

Guest speaker at the event, Magnus Scheving, from the hit children’s TV programme, ‘LazyTown’1, presented his views on how to promote healthy lifestyles among youngsters: “I always say, turn it into a game. If we want children to eat healthier we should not tell them that they have to eat an apple. We should offer to share an apple with them or to race them to where the winner gets an apple. Simple but fun – and it works!”

Keynote speaker, Robert Madelin, Director General of DG SANCO commended achievements thus far:
“The EU Platform represents a constructive way to tackle issues of diet and health within the broader EU
1 LazyTown is a TV programme aimed to motivate and inspire children to live a healthy life. Using humour, music and strong values, Lazytown educates children to make positive choices about their physical and social well-being (www.lazytown.com).

strategy on nutrition. Important progress has been reached by the food and drink industry to date in the fight against obesity and industry commitment, in addition to that of other stakeholders, demonstrates the positive results of cooperative voluntarism at the EU level. We also look forward to physical activity gaining more importance in the forthcoming stages of this process.”
CIAA President, Jean Martin, commented: “Highlights of this evening’s discussions on progress under the
EU Platform demonstrate the complicated challenges we all face in tackling obesity and noncommunicable diseases.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, evidence from the EU Platform shows that the self-regulatory approach is indeed delivering results and that this process presents the appropriate channel through which to address these issues. In spite of increased pressures on the food and drink
industry in the current economic climate, we are firmly committed to the EU Platform and look forward to
its future progress and continuation.”

ENDS

For further information please contact:
Lisa McCooey, Director, Communications (CIAA), Tel: +32 2 508 10 28, or +32 2 514 11 11,l.mccooey@ciaa.eu
Susanne Döring, Director, Consumer Information, Diet and Health Issues (CIAA), Tel: +32 2 500 8755, or
+32 2 514 11 11, s.doring@ciaa.eu
See also www.CIAA.eu

CIAA is the voice of the European food and drink industry – the largest manufacturing sector, major employer and
exporter in the EU. CIAA’s mission is to represent the food and drink industries’ interests, at the level of Europeanand international institutions, in order to contribute to the development of a legislative and economic framework addressing the competitiveness of industry, food quality and safety, consumer protection and respect for the environment. CIAA membership is made up of 26 national federations, including 3 observers, 29 European sectorassociations and 21 major food and drink companies