What's New in the EU: New European food dietary guidelines

Food-based dietary guidelines must also take into account wide disparities in dietary habits due to cultural differences in eating patterns.

med diet 88 (photo credit:)
med diet 88
(photo credit: )
The European Food Safety Authority's panel on dietetic products, nutrition and allergies last week launched a public consultation on its draft opinion regarding foodbased dietary guidelines. The panel's draft opinion provides scientific advice to the European Commission and Member States on how to approach the translation of general nutrient-based recommendations into specific food-consumption recommendations, while taking into account the diversity of the European Union's different countries. The main conclusion of the panel is that it is not feasible to establish detailed and effective food-based dietary guidelines that could be used at the EU level because dietrelated, public-health priorities may differ among countries. Food-based dietary guidelines must also take into account wide disparities in dietary habits due to cultural differences in eating patterns and the varying availability of food products across Europe. Therefore, the panel decided to focus its opinion on the scientific process underlying the development of foodbased dietary guidelines. According to the opinion, eating habits have a significant impact on public health, particularly through the risk of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. The panel recommended that Member States analyze country-specific, diet-related health problems in order to adapt their food-based WHAT'S NEW IN THE EU dietary guidelines to the needs of their population. Food-based dietary guidelines should also be tested to ensure their effectiveness and positive impact on overall dietary balance. Specific recommendations for the intake of individual nutrients or substances in food-based terms can help consumers make healthy dietary choices; they could be the basis for communications on nutrition and diet-related topics to the public. According to the panel, food-based dietary guidelines should also be integrated with other policies related to health promotion; for instance, the encouragement of daily physical activity. The panel recommended that Member States take a multidisciplinary approach in developing these guidelines. The early involvement of stakeholders was recommended to promote the acceptance of messages. The open consultation launched last week aims to gather any new scientific evidence that could contribute to this work. The consultation will be open until December 15. The European Food Safety Authority's colloquium last October 11-12 in Parma assembled some 100 experts and stakeholders from Member States, academia, consumer and public-health organizations, food manufacturers and retailers. They looked at issues including whether one profile should be set for all foods or different profiles for different food categories, the choice and balance of nutrients to be taken into account in the profiling system, and the feasibility and testing of any proposed system. Discussions pointed to the need for the final system to be simple, flexible and able to encourage food manufacturers to improve the nutritional value of foods. One approach considered was an "across the board" system (using a single nutrient-profile for all foods) with a limited number of derogations or exceptions for certain foods or food categories. The European Food Safety Authority is reviewing the scientific basis for defining a limited set of food categories for which such exemptions could be applied by risk managers, based on their nutrient content and contribution to diet. The Authority is also working closely with the European Commission and Member States on the testing of different profiling models, providing technical support to help anticipate their effects on a range of foods on the market. To this end, the Authority collected food-composition data from national and commercial sources to develop an EU-wide database of nutrient contents of foods. Once risk managers have agreed on a preferred model, the Authority will test which foods it would classify as eligible or ineligible to bear health and/or nutrition claims. syrquin@013.net Ari Syrquin is the head of GSCB Law Firm's International Department.