Blog post on a European Commission meeting about and ‘Added sugar’ Annex.
European Commission Brussels 18th January 2016
I attended a Commission meeting in Brussels on Monday about added sugars – not a Platform meeting – but a special meeting for Member States and members of the Platform – meaning the big corporations and a scattering of NGOs. NL – very keen on PPPs – now have the EU presidency and gave a presentation.
The targets were very limited – but the aim of the meeting seem to be to persuade industry to take part – to reduce sugars by just 10% on a voluntary and unmonitorable basis. But it seemed far too modest for me and open to exploitation. I would always prefer the legal route – sector by sector.
I asked what model the meeting was setting – that you shouldn’t set health policies unless industry agreed with it? If so, what does this say about the role of Member States? I got all the usual assurances – that it would always be Member States’ decision – they were only hearing the concerns of industry – but it was clear how this would be described and how this type of strategy has clearly influenced EU lobby on WHO.
There was an interesting question about data. UNESDA said that soft drinks only provide 3% of calories. The delegate from Hungary then piped up and aid that if you do the calculation on people who DRINK soda – (rather than on the whole population who may not) its 30% of calories. She brilliantly showed the problem with industry generated evidence.
Nestlé was in classic confident motherly mode – making out it has been working on all this for the last 15 years – ever since these issues were raised by NGOs and media – so are sort of leaders who should be just trusted to get on with task. At the end they said that because they’d now done all this hard steady work – the next stage – to go EVEN further – would be more difficult and they really needed NGOs and governments as ‘partners’
So I asked why – wasn’t that going to reduce the level of independent critique – our watchdog function – that they had admitted had prompted change in the first place. The only response was to see how effective partnership has been on the environment – or Oxfam’s Behind the Brands – and wasn’t that a wonderful example? I pleaded with them not to get me started on that one – then the Comission stepped in to close down what I thought was starting to be a really interesting ‘dialogue
France warned about the false sugars (they found no evidence of health advantage in replacing sugars with intense sugars) and the need for credibility in evidence. He also raised questions about how to get the expensive marketing data. Thats obviously being bandied around as a reason to ‘engage’.