Draft plans on the composition of processed cereal-based food and baby food fail to protect infants and young children against obesity and should be vetoed, says a Health Committee resolution voted on Thursday. The text recommends lowering the maximum sugar content to match World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
"Today's vote is an important step in helping to ensure that EU rules on baby food are designed with their health as the utmost priority. The proposal by the EU Commission would allow baby foods to contain far higher levels of sugar than those recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The introduction of such high levels of sugar to foods – especially so early – is likely to contribute to the rising levels of childhood obesity and may affect the developing taste preferences of children. For infants and young children in particular, added sugar levels should be kept to a minimum” said MEP Keith Taylor (greens/EFA, UK), who drafted the objection.
“Today's vote to reject the Commission's proposal is an important first step but we are now counting on the European Parliament as a whole to back this decision when it votes next week. The European Parliament must put the health of children ahead of the profit margins of the food industry" he added.
The WHO recommends limiting intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake. But under the European Commission’s proposal, sugars could continue to provide up to 30% of the energy intake from baby foods (7.5g sugar/100kcal is equivalent to 30kcal from sugar in 100kcal energy).
The resolution says that the provision “is contradictory to all health advice from the WHO and from scientific committees in Member States who have recommended significant reductions in total sugar intake”.
“Poor diet is now by far the biggest underlying cause of disease and death globally – bigger than tobacco, alcohol and physical inactivity. The allowed maximum sugar level should therefore be substantially lowered in line with WHO recommendations” say MEPs.
MEPs also ask for zero tolerance for pesticides to apply as a general principle, given the particular vulnerability of the endocrine system of infants and young children. Derogations from this principle should be explicitly listed, they add.
MEPs say that the labelling and marketing of processed baby foods should make it clear that these products are not appropriate for infants of less than 6 months of age, and should not undermine the 6 month exclusive breastfeeding recommendation.
The draft objection was approved by 35 votes to 28. It will be put to a vote by the full Parliament on Wednesday 20 January in Strasbourg.
Note to editors
Article 11 of Regulation (EU) No 609/2013 ("Parnuts-Regulation") empowers the European Commission to adopt delegated acts laying down specific compositional and information requirements for the foods under its scope. The delegated act in question covers specifically processed cereal-based food and baby foods for infants and young children.