IBFAN attends Food Labelling Committee Session in effort to protect consumer health

My grandma proudly hands me a box of crackers. “It says all natural!” she exclaims. I turn over the box to uncover the product’s ingredient list. The crackers are, in fact, not all natural.

It’s easy to fall victim to misleading food labeling.

Patti Rundall, IBFAN
Patti Rundall, Policy Director Baby Milk Action, Global Advocacy IBFAN and IBFAN colleagues attended The 45th Session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling last week in Ottawa, Canada in an effort to form guiding principles for the development of Front of Pack Nutrition Labeling (FOPNL). Rundall and colleagues also focused efforts on eliminating the adoption of the highly promotional biofortification term and cross branding of infant formulas.

The Codex Alimentarius, or “Food Code” is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.

Approximately 250 representatives from 60 national governments, dozens of food industry associations, and a handful of officially recognized health and consumer groups convened to advance a process that began in May 2016. Read Rundall’s coverage from previous Codex Commission meetings here and here.

Per a statement on common concerns of public health and consumer groups regarding FOPNL, “the objectives of FOPNL are to inform and/or guide consumers towards healthier food choices and away from unhealthy options by providing simplified information about the amounts and types of nutrients and/or ingredients in foods. They may also incentivise healthier reformulation by industry.”

“If FOPL is going to be effective, governments need to take control and minimise the influence of the food industry who see the FOPL issue as  a matter of ‘choice’ between one processed brand or another,” Rundall begins. “They will always push for incremental and weaker schemes because they have a fiduciary duty to maximise their profits –  in the short or the long term.”

She goes on, “Governments, in contrast, have a duty to protect and promote public health, leading people towards healthy, minimally processed, culturally appropriate,  bio-diverse foods.”

Rundall reports being pleased and astonished that the committee succeeded on the issue of the deceptive term biofortification.  In fact, no country supported the term, and it was opposed by the EU,  NZ, NGOs, as well as the USA (in a U-turn) and Russia, Rundall explains.

Several general FOPNL principles are covered in some detail in the Proposed Draft Guidelines document prepared by the Electronic Working Group (EWG) chaired by Costa Rica and co-chaired by New Zealand.

Stay tuned for Rundall’s forthcoming statement which will cover all IBFAN topics, as well as information on the extent of industry presence at the meetings and their involvement in government delegations.

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