Tuesday 1 March 2016

European cooperation on healthy food

Twenty-two EU member states, Norway, Switzerland, international businesses and patient organisations have agreed to make food products healthier by reducing salt, saturated fat and sugar content. To achieve this they will work with the food industry and NGOs. This is the outcome of the conference that took place in Amsterdam on 22 February under the auspices of the Netherlands EU Presidency.
Photographer: Hans Molenaar 

Large-scale meeting

Health minister Edith Schippers and agriculture minister Martijn van Dam received delegations from the food industry, supermarkets, NGOs and member states. Also taking part were European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis, Deputy Director-General for Enterprise and Industry Antti Peltomäki and representatives from WHO and non-EU member states Norway and Switzerland. It was the first time all these parties met on such a large scale.

Roadmap for action

Broad support was offered for the ‘Roadmap for action’. Participants underlined the urgent need for joint action to gradually make products healthier by reducing the amount of salt, saturated fat and added sugar. Experts from member states as well as food industry and patient and consumer organisations will collaborate in a public-private partnership.

Making the healthy choice the easy choice

Ms Schippers is greatly satisfied with the support given. ‘This initiative is now supported by 24 European countries,’ she said. ‘I’m doing my best to gain the support of all EU countries, but meanwhile I want to set to work. At the conference we laid a solid foundation for working together on healthy products to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice.’

Innovation as the key to healthier food

Mr van Dam said innovation is key for the agriculture and horticulture sector and the food industry to produce those healthier options. ‘Now that agreements have been made between so many member states and large food producers, we can start making progress. It is important to work together on this, because EU consumers eat food from all over Europe,’ he said.

Bad nutrition causes diseases

Most people in Europe are eating too much salt, saturated fat and sugar. This is one of the reasons the number of people with diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity is still growing. Various European countries are already trying to reduce the salt, saturated fat and sugar content in food products. Countries each take a different approach, but we share one European market. Cooperation at European level is essential to help consumers make healthy choices.

Political decision-making

The conference in Amsterdam was leading up to the informal and formal meetings of the European Health Council later this year, at which political decisions should be made.


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