Lobbying Issue Obesity and the European Food Industry Assessment

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Obesity and the European Food Industry

The fact that EU parties agreed on food labeling with the aim to ensure that consumers make the right decisions concerning healthy foods legislation does not mean that it automatically becomes law. In fact the proposals will be subjected to another round of debate during their second reading in the spring of the year. It will then be finalized and maybe "The Regulation is expected to be finalized and published in early 2012. This will provide appropriate transition periods for all businesses with the Council proposing three years for the labeling provisions although the mandatory requirement for nutrition labeling will not apply for five years," according to Defra's letter. This means companies could have up until 2017 before the legislation comes into force.

This ample time also gives plenty of time for hurdles to be tackled by legislation and industry bodies or opposing national governments. These new regulations, will present new challenges for the food and packaging industries to come up with creative ways to inform consumers. The following shows the arguments that prevailed in the lobbying process until the passing of the proposal by the European parliament.

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TOPIC: Assessment on Lobbying Issue Obesity and the European Food Industry Assignment

The paper will attempt to look at the lobbying efforts towards the introduction of healthy meals for consumers in order to reduce obesity in Europe. It will look at the relation of foods in the industry and how it has contributed to obesity. It will also go ahead to analyze the entire stakeholder's position and arguments in combating the problem. Have they managed or have they failed and how did the evolution of the issues influenced the nature of lobbying, and how the legislation is affected? Everyone agrees that there is need to inform the consumer on which are healthy meals so as to reduce obesity rates, the disagreement arises on which is the best way to achieve this. At least 14 millions Europeans are obese, of which 3 million are children. According to a recent Eurobarometer Survey on Europeans the situations also arises not only due to poor diet but also due to low physical-activity habits with only 15% being active in sports and more sitting hours averaging to six hours per day. As we will see in the end, the lobbying saw the food labeling chosen as the best way to advocate healthy foods.

Main Arguments

There have been protracted arguments on the way forward in resolving the issue of ensuring "healthy meals' and while some have been advocating for food labeling others were for 'The traffic light system.' While others advocated for the mixture of the two and others had totally different views. The most active interest groups on the lobbying front were associations of retailers, of producers of processed products such as cereals, chewing gums, ready meals, and soft drinks manufacturers.

The EU health commissioner, Markos Kyprianou warned of agreed that the emerging health trend was perilous and of there was need for consumers to eat better. The European commissions proposed food labeling plans as the best way to go in aiding consumers reject junk food and choose a healthier diet. The European Commission gave the proposals that the packaging should give information on energy, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugar and salt. 'The labels which will have to be prominent will also have to indicate what percentage of advisable daily intake the measures represent. Nevertheless, beer, wine, and spirits are excluded from containing such information, that according to him.' ' (Stephen & Elizabeth, 2010) The commission disappointed some when he rejected pressure to adopt a compulsory "traffic light" system which food is placed in three, color coded health categories.

Under commission's plans the power to add traffic light systems to national law will be left to each member states. Basil Mathiudakis from the European Commission (EC) defended the proposal which has been criticized by the industry for being too rigid by stating. 'I totally refute such allegations. The opposite is the case and indeed I hope the proposal will get agreement in the first reading.' (European Public Health Alliance, 2011) He noted that the proposed regulation would be an important tool to inform consumers about the composition of everyday foods.

The consumer groups however termed the proposals as inadequate given the scale of the problem. The group believes that the best policy to adopt would be 'The traffic light system' instead of food labeling. "These recommendations are incredibly disappointing given for consumers across Europe.' said the group's chief policy adviser, Independent research shows that traffic lights are the best way to help busy shoppers identify healthy choices quickly and easily' (European Public Health Alliance, 2011). She went ahead to argue that the proposal had ignored what works best for consumers and opted for what works best for some sections of the food industry. Professor Peter Kopelman, the Royal College of Physicians' nutritional adviser, also said that the proposal was insufficient.

In their arguments, the consumer groups pointed out that 'The traffic light system' should have been highlighted as the most useful way forward for both the consumer and health professionals providing messages about healthy foods. 'It is not ideal to assume that people understand the composition of foods.' (European Public Health Alliance, 2001) This argument is backed by Peter Kopelman, who states that people do not understand about the composition of food and the application of the guidelines daily amounts, when experience shows that the traffic light system is easier to understand. Europe Food industry group which won their battles against imposition of a mandatory traffic light system criticized the proposals as unworkable. The food industry had to spend 1 billion Euros lobbying against proposals to adopt traffic light system. The food labeling strategy was criticized by Eurocommerce (which represents the retail, wholesale and international trade sectors in Europe) not for anything else but for the recommended use of minimum type size of 3 millimeters for labels. "Three millimeters was likely to increase the size of the packaging, and shadow down all the efforts made by various actors and contradicts the commission initiative to reducing packaging waste." (Food Labeling, 2010)

The Confederation of Food and Drink Industries of the European Union said its own voluntary nutrition labeling program, which places calorie information on the front of the package as well as more detailed information on the back of the pack, was more practical. (European Public Health Alliance, 2011) The commission plan would lead to consumer confusion rather than consumer information, it said. EU mps were against the proposals to force food manufacturers add 'traffic light' labels on the front of packaging to help consumers work out their daily intake of salt, sugar and fats. Foods with these ingredients would have been given red warning labels. It is quite obvious that 'traffic light' labels on the front of packaging was widely supported by healthy and consumer groups.

However we see that for any of these proposals to be adapted then they must be approved by EU Nations and European parliaments. The European parliaments in their capacity to lobby for 'healthier meals' for the population voted in favor putting nutritional information in the form of Guidelines Daily Amounts (GDA) on the front of the packaging. GDA are guidelines about the approximate amount of particular nutrients and calories required for a healthy diet. Because individual requirements for calories and nutrients are different for all people, GDAs are not intended as targets. Instead they are intended to give a useful indication of how a particular nutrient or amount of calories fit into your diet.

However Health Campaigners came out sharply against GDA as likely to be misleading and unnoticeable to busy shoppers. There were disagreements about portion sizes amongst food manufacturers with the alternative food labeling. It was also termed inefficient because it did not also give portions for children, often the target market for snacks and sweet foods high in salt, sugar and fat. Health campaigners also expressed their dismay at the amount of food industry lobbying against traffic light system.

The food industry mainly represented by Mrs. Sabine Nafziger, from the confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU, emphasized that food labeling cannot stand alone. 'The labeling is also likely to be judgmental instead of informative in the fight against the rising levels of obesity if the issue of labeling is not tackled well' (European Public Health Alliance, 2011). To eliminate such this problem of being judgmental then it is advisable that there should be more than one strategy adopted in order to be effective in reducing the problem of unhealthy meals among the Europeans.

The CIAA proposed the introduction of voluntary measures to improve nutritional information using GDA as the indicator. Not only that but other members of the food industry expressed concerns over parts of the proposals, fearing that consumers might be misled instead of guided by instance, in the traffic light scheme. 'Misleading consumers thus mean that more problems will arise than those that had been… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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