France, new nutrition safety targets

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The French Parliament voted on a comprehensive report on 9/26/18 devoted to nutritional security. It is imperative to improve the quality of food products, as well as transparency in labeling, to fulfill unavoidable public health needs.

The report, developed through months of work by a multi-partisan policy committee, focuses onprocessed foods (processed foods ) andultra-processed foods (ultra-processed foods). Identified according to the NOVA classification, devised by researchers at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. (1)

The goal is to increase the nutritional safety of more processed foods, in terms of composition and production processes. By introducing maximum thresholds for salt (sodium), sugar and fat in the aforementioned foods. As well as setting additional limits, beyond those established in the EU to date, on the use of food additives.

NOVA, the classification of foods according to their degree of processing

Researchers at the University of São Paulo (Brazil) have developed a completely innovative food classification system. In fact, on closer inspection, foods have so far been distinguished because of the matrices they belong to (e.g., grains, legumes, dairy products, meats), characteristic nutrients (e.g., primary sources of protein, carbohydrates, fats) and/or energy density. (2)

Instead, the NOVA classification consists of four macro-categories of foods, distinguished on the basis of the degree of processing they undergo before reaching the consumer. And so:

1) Unprocessed or minimally processed foods. The first NOVA group consists of ‘unprocessed (or natural) foods, edible parts of plants (seeds, fruits, leaves, stems, roots) or animals (muscles, offal, eggs, milk), and also mushrooms, algae, and water, after separation from nature’,(3)

2) Ingredients for cooking. Oils and fats, salt and vinegar, sugar, and other substances used for cooking and seasoning food,

3) processed foods (
processed

food
). Pickled vegetables, fruits in syrup, salted meat and fish, cheese and fresh bread,

4) ultra-processed foods (
ultra-processed

food
). Soft drinks, packaged snacks and sweets, industrial bread, mechanically separated meat (e.g., sausage). As well as instant soups, ready meals, pies, and industrial pizzas.

‘Ultra-process foods’ differ in the presence of food additives and substances rarely used in cooking. Be they directly extracted from foods (e.g., casein, lactose, whey, and gluten), or derived by further processing (e.g., hydrogenated oils, hydrolyzed proteins, maltodextrins, invert sugar, high-fructose corn syrup).

France, parliament report on nutritional security



I




processed





food




and the




ultra-processed foods


Are the ones that best lend themselves to improvement interventions. Interventions that are necessary today, given the ongoing epidemic of obesity, overweight and related diseases. Not to mention the role of aggressive marketing strategies aimed at promoting junk food to children and adolescents.

The report approved by the Paris assembly therefore proposes to take action on the nutritional safety of processed and ultra-processed foods with some simple measures:



salt/sodium


, define maximum levels differentiated by food categories,


trans⎯fatty acids, set a threshold (2%) to apply to all products,


food additives

, reduce the number of authorized substances.

, in line with the criteria established for organic products, and limit their maximum number per functional category in each food.

Also on the subject of additives, Parliament calls on the French government to continue research on the so-called ‘cocktail effect’. That is, to assess the safety of food, which has been underestimated so far, in relation to the co-presence of multiple additives.



I



nutrient profiles


– that the European Commission

should have established a decade ago to limit the use of


claims

nutritional and health claims on foods with excessive levels of fat and saturated fat, sugar and sodium-are finally recalled. Urging Brussels to do its duty, better late than never. (4)

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Cf. Food classification, public health. NOVA, the star shines bright, in World Nutrition, Volume 7, Number 1-3, January-March 2016. V. Attachment

(2) Other categorizations relate to occasions of consumption (breakfast, snack, main meals), nature of foods (plant or animal), interaction with the body (e.g., glycemic index)

(3) ‘Minimally processed foods are natural foods that have been altered by processes such as removing inedible or unwanted parts, drying, crushing, grinding, fractionating, filtering, roasting, boiling, pasteurizing, refrigerating, freezing, placing in containers, vacuum packing, or non-alcoholic fermentation

(4) See reg. EC 1924/06, Article 4

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.