In the past few years, policymakers have increasingly focussed on making the transition to a more sustainable and healthy food system at the European and national levels. At the same time, consumers are also indicating their intention to eat more healthily, a trend that has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a #HealthyAtHome campaign to promote healthy dietary habits as Europe and the rest of the world take steps to ease lockdown restrictions. A key element mentioned by the WHO is to lower or moderate the intake of fat, salt and sugar. Policymakers in the UK and the EU also deem this important and, are taking efforts to reduce the consumption of HFSS products to curb increasing obesity rates across Europe.
As part of the EU’s Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy, the European Commission is seeking to set nutrient profiles to restrict the promotion of HFSS foods, and will put forward a proposal (alongside food labelling measures) by the end of 2022 as part of its revision of the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation. A contentious issue in the European Parliament’s F2F report (paragraph 16), we expect some MEPs to push for more ambition on HFSS when they cast their vote in committee mid-July, and in plenary on 4th October. On the other side of the Channel, the UK has also confirmed that it will introduce, at the end of 2022, a 9pm TV watershed for HFSS products and a restriction of paid-for-HFSS advertising online as part of its Obesity strategy.
Product reformulation, the process of altering a food or drink product’s composition to improve its health profile, plays a big part in facilitating the shift to healthier diets, and is something that policymakers have noted.
The good news for the food and nutrition industry is that policymakers are showing an increased willingness to listen to industry stakeholders under pressure to get to grips with new requirements post-Brexit and recovering from a global pandemic.
A good example is the discussions that are taking place to design the EU’s Code of Conduct for responsible business and marketing practices, which is almost ready for signature and endorsement by interested parties. Industry can also provide their views and expertise in discussions in pan-European and UK-based trade associations and fora such as the European Food Forum (EFF) and, not least, during public consultations and direct meetings with those who hold the pen.
Being recognised as a major player in the shift towards more sustainable and healthy food systems is imperative for food companies wanting to jump into these discussions. Policies that can have a major impact on food businesses are currently on the table. Companies are already taking large strides in helping achieve the objectives set in Brussels and Westminster, but they need to ensure they have a seat and a voice at the policy table.
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