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Is Nestlé's Law to decide nutrition policy? Guidelines designed to fill the company coffers

Date

04 Apr 2016

Sections

Agriculture & Food
Innovation & Enterprise

Is Nestlé's Law to decide nutrition policy?

Guidelines designed to fill the company coffers

by Detlef Brendel
 

The initiative to save humanity is to come to us from Switzerland. How this should go Nestlé explains in a"sponsored content" under the headline "Wanted: EU policy for better Innovation in Nutrition" in the parliamentarian's magazine POLITICO on the 18. 2. 2016. Luis Cantarell, the man from Nestlé with responsibility for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, is calling for an EU policy of regulation and patronisation in the interests of his own corporate group. He tries to suggest that Nestlé's recipes are the only example in the food industry of what he claims is healthy nutrition. Politicians are now to produce guidelines and legislation to ensure that Nestlé's competitors are forced to behave in a way that complies with Nestlé's ideas. In addition, from teachers to nutritionists to NGOs, everyone is to help in order to modify the desires and behaviour of consumers in such a way that the food that Nestlé puts on their table as supposedly healthy is what tastes good to them. It is rare to encounter such a brazen and blatant approach to instrumentalising politics.

No honest nutritionist would make the bold claim that he or she could provide scientifically founded cause-and-effect relationships to show what are healthy or unhealthy foods. Statistical correlations are used to find recommendations to legitimise hypotheses. Guidelines are not based on evidence, but often based on eminence. How wrong these conclusions derived from consensus can be is shown by the warning on cholesterol, which was withdrawn in spring 2015: after 35 years of consensus it had to be admitted that there has never been a scientific basis for this.

Now Luis Cantarell and his enterprise claim to know what is healthy. The answer is not a problem for them: what is healthy is the path shown by Nestlé's formulations. Don't be mistaken: this arrogance in the face of the rest of the nutrition industry is neither a sign of intelligence nor of responsibility in the interests of consumers. Nestlé is not more intelligent than science. Instead, the company places its reliance on trends for which there is no evidence, but which are rated as promising for strategic reasons. Consumers and politicians too are to be deceived into believing that Nestlé wishes to use new formulations to save health all over the planet. Nestlé intends to safeguard this corporate strategy by controlling its competitors. Cantarell does indeed support his call to politicians by arguing that consumers may no longer like the taste of the modified Nestlé products and they may therefore turn to alternatives. The argument is disarming in its candour. Politicians must stop the unwelcome competition in the wide array of foodstuffs on sale by creating controls that will ensure that the market is submissive to the wishes of the Swiss nutrition strategists. If Nestlé's muesli no longer tastes good, the competitors' mueslis may not taste good either.

It is an unacceptable plan to educate and patronise consumers in order to enforce a way of eating for which there is no scientific basis but merely trend-oriented corporate considerations and mixtures from the Nestlé test kitchen. It is equally unacceptable that the company is attempting to discriminate against all its competitors as the producers of allegedly less healthy products which need political control and thus also have to have their entrepreneurial freedom curtailed.

It is the EU, says Cantarell in his revealing deliberations, that is to provide the initiative for a global nutrition revolution. The instrumentalisation of the political world as a sales organisation cleaning up the market for Nestlé is a demand whose presumptuousness is scarcely to be outdone. And finally, in his fantasy of worldwide health food if not earlier, Cantarell demonstrates his cluelessness on the state of nutrition research. For food science has now repeatedly confirmed one finding: people react extremely individually to food and there are completely different methods and traditions of what it means to live a health-conscious life, depending on culture, country and lifestyle. In view of this worldwide individuality and the diversity of the food industry, it is indeed only a Nestlé's Law that could help us.

Detlef Brendel is the author of the book "Die Zucker-Lüge" ("The Sugar Lie"), in which, among other topics, he critically discusses the delusions of self-proclaimed nutritional enlightenment and the patronising of consumers (Ludwig-Verlag ISBN 978-3-453-28075-5)

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