European Commission welcomes new EU Pledge nutrition criteria


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On November 14 2012, the EU Pledge initiative launched new, harmonised, category-based nutrition criteria, which will be used by those EU Pledge member companies that currently use company-specific nutrition criteria to determine which products may be advertised to children under twelve. The new criteria will not apply to those EU Pledge member companies (7 out of 19) that do not advertise any of their products to children under twelve.

The EU Nutrition Criteria White Paper, published today, was presented by WFA and the EU Pledge Secretariat to the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, meeting jointly with the EU High Level Group (Member State experts on diet and health) in Brussels. The White Paper details the nutrition criteria and provides background and a detailed rationale for the system developed and the nutrient values chosen.

The new criteria will be applied throughout the EU by the end of 2014 by those EU Pledge member companies that do use nutrition criteria. Companies will be allowed to apply company-specific criteria only if they can demonstrate that their criteria are stricter than the common ones.

The announcement was welcomed by the European Commission, as well as civil society representatives at the EU Platform. “It's an important effort”, said Despina Spanou, DG SANCO Principal Adviser and Chair of the EU Platform, adding “you are demonstrating that you are listening”. Reminding members that one of the ambitions of the Platform since 2011 had been to scale up commitments on advertising and marketing, Ms Spanou noted that “in one of the biggest commitments to the EU Platform [the EU Pledge] and one of the areas where we have only voluntary measures, no regulation, we see an evolution, that it is not a static commitment, but something that becomes more elaborate.

The EU Pledge is a very good achievement and [%u2026] uniform nutrition criteria are a very important step,” added Paola Testori-Coggi, Director-General for Health and Consumers, in her keynote speech. She went on to emphasise the importance of measuring the impact of voluntary commitments, to see “whether self-regulation is enough, especially in areas like marketing to children”. She concluded that the current evaluation of the EU Nutrition Strategy (report due April 2013) should be able to answer this question.

The new criteria were also welcomed by the European Heart Network (EHN). “We appreciate the difficulty of this effort [%u2026] it is certainly welcome”, said Susanne Logstrup, representing EHN, which has also committed to developing a harmonised set of nutrition criteria for advertising to children and will therefore examine closely the EU Pledge criteria.

Next steps: The European Commission proposed to gather EU Platform members' comments on the EU Pledge nutrition criteria by the end of November and to feed them into WFA. The European Commission would like the EU Pledge to discuss the nutrition criteria with relevant NGO representatives. The EU Pledge has scheduled a meeting with EHN and Dr Mike Rayner in this regard for early December. The EU Pledge Nutrition Criteria White Paper will be shared with key stakeholders in the coming days, including The Evaluation Partnership, which has been commissioned to evaluate the EU Nutrition Strategy. This process is under way, with the following timetable going forward: interim report by 7 December 2012, draft final report by end March 2013 and final report publication on 29 April 2013. Ms Testori stated at today's meeting that she expects the evaluation to be positive and that the EU Nutrition Strategy will therefore be re-launched and boosted. DG SANCO's intention is to develop an EU Action Plan on Non-Communicable Diseases, of which the Nutrition Strategy (encompassing the EU Platform) would become a pillar.

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