MEPs voted to reject tabled objections to draft rules on infant formula and medical foods this morning, but backed a third objection on cereal-based baby foods concerning too-high sugar content.
UK Green MEP Keith Taylor tabled three objections to the delegated acts – part of the Food for Specific Groups (FSG) regulation – in December, which were voted on by the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) today (14th January).
The vote was to determine whether the objections should be forwarded on for a full European Parliament plenary vote in Strasbourg next week, which would mean the draft – two years in the making – could go back to the drawing board.
However the vote this morning saw Taylor's fellow MEPs cast off his concerns on the new rules for marketing infant and follow on formula and foods for special medical purposes, which he said failed to safeguard the practice of breastfeeding and undermined the International Code for marketing breast-milk substitutes.
Yet his third objection tabled on baby foods was backed by his ENVI colleagues, meaning it would be taken to Strasbourg for a plenary vote.
This objection largely concerned the sugar content of baby foods, which could constitute up to 30% of energy in such products contrary to advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO recommends limiting intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake.
Taylor applauded the outcome on Twitter.
NGO Baby Milk Action told us it welcomed the decision on baby foods, but lamented the lost opportunity on formula.
"This is a critically important issue that is seriously misleading parents undermining child health," policy director Patti Rundall said.
Before the electronic vote took place Danish Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats MEP Christel Schaldemose said she and her party supported this third objection only.
“It’s important to send a clear message to the Commission and EFSA that we have to create regulations for the composition of infant food, especially added sugars. That is why we support the third objection.”
A Commission mandate for a scientific review of the ideal composition of processed cereal-based food and baby food - something already completed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for formula - is expected to be issued soon.
Talking yesterday about the vote, trade group Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) said it strongly disagreed with all three objections from Taylor.
"Processed cereal-based food and baby food facilitate the move from a liquid diet based on breast milk or infant formula, to one which includes solid foods. All products for infants and young children are produced under strict controls designed to ensure very high standards of safety and quality and are specially formulated to match their specific development phases," SNE executive director Aurélie Perrichet told us.
"Processed cereal-based food and baby food are the only foods whose nutritional composition is regulated in terms of carbohydrates (including sugars), lipids, protein and some micronutrients to meet specific needs of young children."