EUROPE – The Irish trade association, Food Drink Ireland (FDI) has said that product reformulation rather than taxes, has brought tangible results for public health, a critical indicator for the success of the industry, a Euractiv article reveals.
This is in line with the 2016 Reformulation Project report launched by FDI in collaboration with Crème Global, showing modification of nutrients by industry players in response to changing consumer lifestyles, tastes and demands.
The report indicated that food and drink companies are continuously reformulating their products, reducing nutrients without compromising food product safety, integrity and taste.
These include significant reductions in fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt and calories in light of rising obesity rates across Europe.
“The impact of reformulation variations is approximately twice as effective as a tax in achieving calorie reduction,” FDI director Paul Kelly told Euractiv.
“The report was the first of its kind in the world. Never before had the impact of reformulation on the diet of an entire nation been analysed.”
Reformulation verses taxes
Based on the World Health Organisation recommendation, other European Union countries have moved to impose taxes on sugary products with an aim to reduce consumption of sugar.
Nevertheless, no significant measurement has been made to highlight positive impacts of taxation on public health.
The research which measured both the impact of reformulated products on quantities of nutrients and that of the reformulation on the population, showed that the sugar content in 600 products from 14 of Ireland’s major food and drink companies fell by 14% during the 2005-2012 period.
According to Kelly, product reformulation is much more effective than taxation: “And this happens at no cost to the consumer, unlike a tax.”
Data from the Irish Department of Health revealed that the impact of the tax amounts to 2.1 Kcal per day for the adult population and 4.5 Kcal per day reductions for the young.
On the other hand, FDI’s research says that the impact of reformulation of product variation is 4.02 Kcal per day for the adult populations, and 10.1 Kcal per day for teenagers.
The health framework
EU member states adopted the EU Framework for National Initiatives on Selected Nutrients in February 2011 with a focus on added sugars and saturated fat.
WHO recommends less than 10% of total energy intake in both adults and children in order to decrease the risk of “Non-Communicable Diseases”.
In line with this, the EU proposed Annex II to set a general benchmark for added sugars reduction of a minimum of 10% by 2020.
Annex II also demanded member states to draw up national plans on the composition of food improvement by the end of 2017.
The next step looks to develop an Action Plan on childhood obesity. UK government’s sugar tax on soft drinks came into effect on April 6, 2018 to tackle chronic illnesses given that UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe.