In July 2021, the EU Pledge Nutrition Criteria White Paper, first published end 2012 and updated in July 2015 and October 2018, was updated for the third time. The changes are part of the enhanced EU Pledge commitment submitted by the WFA to the European Commission’s Code of Conduct for responsible business and marketing practices.
Members agreed not to advertise ice creams and potato-based products to children under 13, and further strengthened criteria for sweet biscuits and cakes, cereal-based snacks and meat-based products. The enhanced common nutrition criteria will be applied no later than 30 June 2022.
In January 2021, EU Pledge members had also adopted a new set of criteria for spoonable and drinkable plant-based products.
During the second update, members agreed to reduce by 10% the sugar and sodium thresholds applicable in several product categories by the end of 2018. Members also agreed to create a new sub-category for ‘small in between meals’ which are defined as the combination of two or more components served as a snack, consumed apart from the three main meals. The criteria can be used to promote combinations of products which represent a healthy snack or a small healthy meal option, on the key condition that all food items are compliant with their respective category thresholds.
The first update of the White Paper in July 2015 was carried out to reflect recent developments and to update a few outdated references. The update also took stock of experience with implementing the nutrition criteria since January 2015, which highlighted some minor implementation issues.
The changes introduced to the EU Pledge Nutrition Criteria White Paper were as follows:
- The 2012 White Paper foresaw the potential to further reduce the sodium value of hard/semi hard cheese in 3 years’ time. Having reviewed the situation in early 2015, and following positive expert feedback, the EU Pledge Nutrition Working Group agreed to introduce an optional lower sodium threshold (800mg/100g instead of 900mg/100g) to incentivise further sodium reduction. To make this lower sodium threshold workable, the accompanying maximum saturated fat threshold is raised by 1g/100g, to 16g. If the lower sodium threshold is not used, the saturated fat threshold remains at 15g/100g.
- Following implementation of the nutrition criteria in January 2015, it became apparent that a few products did not fall into a specific category because they did not meet the minimum content requirement under the relevant category/sub-category. The updated White Paper makes clear that in these cases, and if such a product does not fall under any another category/sub-category, then the product cannot be marketed to children.
- It also became apparent that nutrition criteria for certain product types of no relevance to children had not been created. To clarify the status of these products and given that they are not marketed to or relevant for children, the updated White Paper makes clear that the following products categories are outside the scope of the EU Pledge Nutrition Criteria:
– Bouillon/stock cubes
– Herbs and spices
– Coffee and tea (excluding coffee and tea-based drinks, which fall under the Beverages category).
- Finally, it became apparent from the implementation of the common Nutrition Criteria that there is no common European benchmark for the purposes of quantifying fruit and vegetable content (e.g. conversion formulae for dried fruit and vegetables into fresh equivalents). The updated White Paper clarifies that applicable standards used at national level should apply in this regard.
The EU Pledge Nutrition Criteria White Paper is available here.