European Consumer Organization, BEUC and member organizations from 11 countries have called on the EU Commission to swiftly publish the nutrient profiles in 2018 which are now nine years late being implemented, following the EU Commission’s long-standing failure to clear the market of unhealthy food and drink products with bogus labelling claims.
"It’s already 9 years that BEUC and its member organisations began calling for nutrient profiles to be adopted. These tools would help slash the number of health and nutrition claims which give a healthy halo to unhealthy foods," BEUC said.
During a press conference held 26 January in Brussels, BEUC and its Belgian member Test Achats/Test Aankoop jointly exposed these claims which mislead consumers.
In January, BEUC and 11 of its members launched a campaign to denounce the numerous food products which bear misleading claims. BEUC member groups come from Austria, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Cyprus, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and Slovenia.
Nutrition claims highlight the benefits some nutrients can bring to a foodstuff, such as “source of calcium” or “70 percent fat less”. Health claims underline the food’s effect on the body, such as “Vitamin C boosts your immune system”.
Ivo Mechels, CEO of Test Achats/Test Aankoop said: "There is a list of health and nutrition claims which are allowed or forbidden, but this is clearly not enough. This list does not prevent food makers from displaying the message 'high in fibres and vitamin D' on a box of sugar-loaded cereals. This makes food and drinks look much healthier than they actually are."
BEUC members have spotted numerous products of concern across Europe. Examples include dairy products high in minerals and vitamins, to strengthen bones and boost the immune system, but also high in sugar.
Others include high-sugar baby cereals boasting about iron and zinc to help brain development, and powdered chocolate drinks with 75 percent sugar that boosts memory and concentration.
Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, commented: “Who would think that breakfast cereals rich in fibres and calcium are actually one third sugar? Our members have found massive numbers of claims across Europe which mislead consumers as they disguise foods high in sugar or fat as healthy options. This is unacceptable.
“At a time when obesity is rising in Europe, consumers should be able to trust claims on packaging. Only nutrient profiles can ensure this happens, so it is high time the EU took action.”
The news came as the Danish Government restated its recent call for nutrient profiles to stop unhealthy foods making health claims, while the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) published first of its kind Guidance on Comparative Nutrition Claims.
According to a report in Nutrition Insight: "Comparative nutrition claims stipulate a difference in the quantity of a nutrient or energy value, such as increased or reduced nutrients, reduced calories, or use of the term 'light', when compared to products already available on the market. The guidance also describes non-permitted comparative nutrition claims, but does not cover non-nutrition comparative claims, such as '30 percent more fruit'."