Guest Article

Specialised Nutrition in 2023 and beyond

Copyright: SmileStudioAP | Getty
Copyright: SmileStudioAP | Getty

Related tags Infant formula Infant nutrition Breastfeeding Regulation

At Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE), highlights in 2023 include the publication of the Code of Practice, important advocacy efforts on topics like packaging, nutrition labelling and date marking, key public statements made on infant and young child nutrition, and increased visibility for the work we do.

SNE represents the specialised nutrition industry across Europe with the goal to contribute to positive framework conditions for products for people with specific nutritional needs.

In July, we published the SNE Code of Practice​ on interactions between the infant nutrition industry and healthcare professionals to ensure the highest ethical standards are respected.

We are convinced that collaborative and inclusive dialogue between healthcare professionals and manufacturers of infant nutrition products is essential to ensure optimal nutrition and we are delighted that several important medical societies have welcomed our Code.

We also issued several statements relating to nutrition for infants and young children. This includes a joint letter with ISDI (International Special Dietary Foods Industries), SNE’s global partner association, in response to the ‘2023 Lancet series on breastfeeding​’.

We argued that the series creates the misleading impression that advertising is the main factor limiting breastfeeding. This letter was later published in the Lancet, and called for a more holistic approach on breastfeeding, highlighting the fact that “in Europe, countries have the same legislation, companies, products, and advertising, yet breastfeeding rates vary. The difference lies in socioeconomic and cultural factors at the national level.”

We also reacted through an open letter to WHO Europe’s online description of infant formula as “harmful products”, which subsequently led to a correction by WHO Europe.

Our latest statement addresses concern​ we have on the recently published WHO guideline on complementary feeding of infants and young children 6-23 months of age, whereby we call out some contradictions of well-established medical advice.

Finally, in late November, we welcomed the adoption by Codex Alimentarius​ of the updated standard on follow-up formula for older infants (6-12 months) and products for young children (12- 36 months) and encouraged its timely adoption by the EU. SNE is a regular stakeholder at relevant Codex meetings.

SNE's focus extends beyond infant and young children nutrition to include individuals with medical conditions, disorders, and diseases such as coeliac disease, sports people, and those managing their weight.

Given the specific dietary needs of these groups, we advocate against applying generic rules for nutrition labelling or date marking for these specialised product categories.

Because some of these product groups are regulated very strictly in terms of food safety, we requested for them to be treated similarly to medicines and medical devices in the framework of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation.

We are delighted that, on 22 November, the European Parliament’s plenary decided to support this approach. However, there is still much work ahead concerning the labelling rules for foods designed for special medical purposes.

In 2023, we also celebrated our association’s 60 years’ anniversary​, elected a new president and discussed with stakeholders about nutrition for infants and young children at our General Assembly in Hamburg.

While many of the SNE publications received attention on social media and from journalists, including NutraIngredients, we will step up efforts in 2024 to further enhance our visibility in the context of the new European Parliament and Commission.

Among others, we call on the EU decision-makers to make common standards available to guarantee the best nutrition for vulnerable groups and to ensure science-based regulations and policies.

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