Obesity: a simple step for the new Commission to take

The decision by both the European and the US authorities to approve the use of the new sweetener Advantame adds a new weapon to the arsenal of those seeking to tackle obesity.

For many years now there have been sustained customer trends to choose low calorie products to the extent that for the main cola brands the low calorie product now outsells the full sugar version in some countries.

Much is made by policy-makers and nutritionists about the complexity of changing public behavior in food choices, but in this area one approach screams out for action. Health authorities and policy-makers in all 28 EU member states should give the same, clear and consistent message. If consumers are going to choose a sweetened beverage they should consider a low calorie version. This could deliver a rapid and substantial improvement in public health without the need for legislation and with almost no expenditure. All it would take is clear thinking and courage to stand by the robust risk assessment processes of the European Food Safety Authority that has concluded time and time again that key sweeteners are safe and pose no real risks for consumers.

Let’s hope the new Commissioner of DG SANCO when appointed has the commonsense to take this easy step. In the meantime there is an opportunity for the UK’s own Public Health Minister to lead from the front with such messaging without further delay.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is Europe’s leading public affairs agency for the specialist health product sector. The agency’s clients include Consumers for Health Choice and the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance and a wide range of specialist food product manufacturers and distributors. The agency also runs National Obesity Awareness Week.

Chris Whitehouse