“If you see a product on a supermarket shelf, and it says ‘less sugar’ or ‘less fat’ you’d think it was healthy. I’m taking the lead in ensuring that EU-wide legislation allows shoppers to trust these claims,” said Glenis Willmott, Leader of the Labour MEPs, as the European Environment Committee today overwhelmingly voted against allowing manufacturers to use a nutritional claim stating food has “x% less fat, sugar or salt.”
“If a chocolate spread, for example, said it had ‘20% less saturated fat’ you might think it was the healthier choice. In fact, it could still be the chocolate spread with the most saturated fat on the market. Consumers are naturally influenced by health and nutrition claims when comparing similar products on the supermarket shelf, and we can’t allow those claims to be misleading” said the East Midlands MEP.
Glenis Willmott formed a cross-party alliance of MEPs to vote against the claim which was supported by food manufacturers and the European Commission.
“The Coalition Government in the UK disagrees with the European Parliament. But of course they are working very closely with the food industry on the so called Responsibility Deal. I call on them to support the consumer and health groups who are all concerned about the impact this claim would have,” she said.
“Under the proposed claim, the food manufacturers can advertise reductions of fat, sugar or salt by as little as 15%. Some of them could still be very unhealthy.
“People are now very conscious of what they eat, and we want to encourage the food industry to take bolder steps to increase the healthiness of their food and make it easier for us all to follow a healthy diet.
“Obviously it’s good if the food industry are reformulating their products to reduce the levels of fat, salt and sugar, but it should result in a healthier diet, not an excuse to increase sales of fundamentally unhealthy food.
“Manufacturers need limits on what they can claim, and as food is manufactured and marketed right across the EU in the Single Market, these changes need to come from Brussels.
“Busy parents are bound to want the best for their kids and foods with labels that make them look “healthy” are ruthlessly targeting them.”
The Plenary Session of the European Parliament, meeting in Brussels later this week, still has to agree to the decision of the Environment Committee.