SIAL TALKS: Food lawyer on Farm to Fork strategy and the problems around current nutrient profiles

July 25, 2023

Speaking at last year’s SIAL Talks, Katia Merten-Lentz, Partner at Food Law Science and Partners gave an update on nutritional profiling, the problems with current legislation and its relationship to the EU’s Farm to Fork initiative – a policy at the heart of the European Green Deal, which aims to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly. This article gives a recap of the address.

Merten-Lentz started her address by defining nutrient profiles, which she explained as simply “the nutrient composition of a food and/or a diet”. She noted the importance of having a clear, concise and common definition, understood by many.

“According to the European Court of Justice, the first definition is always a common concept,” she said. “It’s very important to have an very precise idea of the leverage of understanding of the man on the street and it’s important for us to be able to convey this common knowledge and understanding.”

In terms of a legal definition, the food lawyer nodded towards outdated legislation, noting that current profiling is based around nutrient claims rather than nutritional facts.

“We are supposed to have a legal definition, but instead we a regulation totally dedicated dedicated to claim. This is an old regulation which is still running, and we are quite desperate about that, but that is another debate.”

She said that the ambition of the current legislation is to ensure that claims made would be to the benefit of the consumer, would be based in scientific evidence – built upon nutritional profiling in terms of levels of nutrients per 100g – and finally, that that claims made would not be misleading.

Watch the full SIAL Talks episode here.

However, she said that these nutrient profiles were not standardised or set with the publication of the legislation, leading to issues in definition and a lack of clarity around profiles and claims made.

She said that there is still is distinct lack of precise definition of nutrient profiles, and that work needs to be done.

“I insist that we need to go before the open court and try to put on the table the fact that this regulation is invalid from a legal point of view, because without the first criteria, how can this regulation still be used? And very, some of you know, the regulation, it’s very difficult to get an health claim authorization for instance. So it’s a strong it’s a tough regulation. Based on the first criteria, which doesn’t exist.”

She said in her SIAL Talks address that without these strong definitions there would continue to be uncertainty and that some food business operators would continue to reject calls on health claim authorization, using the argument of a lack of validity, legal uncertainty, and other legal reasons.

She commented, addressing her words towards the European Commission: “When will you provide the food business operators with the definitions of nutrient profiles to stay consistent with the regulation?”

Merten-Lentz lamented the lack of action so far and the uncertainty but ended on a positive note, asserting that the Farm to Fork Strategy would push the necessary EU revisions into being as part of a harmonised Europe-wide framework.

What is Farm to Fork legislation?

Food systems cannot be resilient to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic if they are not sustainable. We need to redesign our food systems which today account for nearly one-third of global GHG emissions, consume large amounts of natural resources, result in biodiversity loss and negative health impacts (due to both under- and over-nutrition) and do not allow fair economic returns and livelihoods for all actors, in particular for primary producers.

Putting our food systems on a sustainable path also brings new opportunities for operators in the food value chain. New technologies and scientific discoveries, combined with increasing public awareness and demand for sustainable food, will benefit all stakeholders.

The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to accelerate our transition to a sustainable food system that should:

  • Have a neutral or positive environmental impact
  • Help to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts
  • Reverse the loss of biodiversity
  • Ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious, sustainable food
  • Preserve affordability of food while generating fairer economic returns, fostering competitiveness of the EU supply sector and promoting fair trade

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