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Appraising Home Food Availability

Appraising Home Food Availability

A cross-sectional study has shown it is feasible to use screeners for individuals to appraise household food supplies. Screeners seek to obtain information about a limited number of foods and beverages consumed or dietary practices whilst food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) examine the frequency and, in some cases, portion size. Either may be used in the short- (e.g. week or month) or longer-term (e.g. past year).

The desire to appraisal of home food availability was borne from a growing interest in links between environment and obesity. Currently, there are tools available but these are limited in scope and burdensome to use.

Martin-Biggers et al. investigated the feasibility of using food categories, and scoring algorithms from valid food frequency questionnaires, for individuals to estimate nutrient availability of food in households. Dietary fat and fruit-vegetable-fibre screeners were used to assess nutrient availability and compared with household food inventories from 100 two-parent families with one or more children who were 12 years old or younger. Foods were coded to match screener food groups, and the amounts converted to total adult daily equivalent servings to express the greatest possible frequency. Scoring algorithms were converted to express all scores on a per day basis.

The fruit-vegetable- fibre screener ranked households accurately not only for fruits, vegetables and dietary fibre, but also vitamin C. The fat screener and household inventory were positively correlated (r ≥ 0.58) for total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.

Importantly, these results could have implications for two of our projects, namely QuaLiFY and TDS-Exposure, which are examining portion-sizes or using food identification, description and classification, respectively.

Appraising nutrient availability of household food supplies using Block Dietary Screeners for individuals; J Martin-Biggers, M Koenings, V Quick, J M Abbot and C Byrd-Bredbenner; European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2015) 69, 1028–1034; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2015.30; published online 25 March 2015

Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development rejects GM ban

On Thursday, 3rd September 2015, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) rejected the draft law to restrict or prohibit use of EU-approved GM food/ feed in Member State territories.

While supporters of this draft law have commended it for allowing Members States to choose whether to use GM, AGRI expressed concerns that arbitrary national bans could distort competition in EU single markets.

The draft law was similar to an earlier bill passed this year on the cultivation of GM crops. However, whilst GM crop cultivation, generally, benefited the scientific community and GM industry, this draft law could potentially have harmed the agriculture industry, which is – in some cases – highly dependent on GM feed imports.

The future of this draft law now lies with the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. The European Parliament will discuss their decision in the 26th-29th October plenary session.

French food waste bill: Help or hindrance?

On 22nd May 2015, the French National Assembly passed an energy bill into law that included Article 103 stipulating new regulations around food waste disposal in supermarkets (  These new regulations decreed that, by July 2016, supermarkets larger than 400m2 had to donate unsold food to said charity or dispose of food waste by turning it into compost, animal feed or energy. Failure to comply would result in fines up to €75,000 or two year in jail. The aim of the bill was to halve food waste by 2025.

Current estimates indicate that 20-30 Kg of food waste are produced each year per person costing an estimated €12-20 billion annually. However, the Article has been removed from the energy bill because it was added during a second hearing. This has prompted French Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development, Ségolène Royal, to establish a voluntary contract ( with Carrefour, Aldi and Lidl to keep the principle alive. This agreement has no sanctions, but there will be a review in three months and the French government is hoping bad publicity will prevent the supermarkets from straying.

Ministers Frédéric Lefebrvre and Jean-Pierre Decool have already proposed a new bill to replace Article 103 that would undermine this voluntary contract. According to Fédération des Enterprises du Commerce et de la Distribution (FCD), retailers prefer the voluntary contract because the new bill will introduce more paperwork and discourage collaboration. They also cite that in France, supermarkets only account for 5% of food waste and, therefore, targeting supermarkets is unfair.

While the debate continues in France, the UN has identified that reducing food waste by a quarter could end would hunger, making this issue increasingly important.

Proposal for a Regulation on Novel Food

Presentation by the European Commission during the AGRI Committee meeting on Tuesday 23rd September 2014

This proposal aims to ensure food safety, to protect public health and secure the functioning of the internal market for food, while supporting innovation for the food sector.

Definition of novel food Novel food refers to “all food that was not used for human consumption to a significant degree within the Union before 15 May 1997” (date of the entry into force of the Regulation (EC) 258/97 on novel food and novel food ingredients). Novel food includes:
  1. Food to which a new production process not used for food protection (within the Union before 15 May 1997 – as above) is applied where that production gives rise to significant changes in the composition or structure of food, which affects its nutrition value, the way it is metabolised or the level of undesirable substances
  2. Food containing or consisting of “engineered nanomaterials”
  3. Vitamins, minerals and other substances where a new production process has been applied as referred to the first point
  4. Traditional food from a third country that is derived from primary ingredients with a history of safe use in a third country
The European Commission decided not to include issues related to cloning of farms animals in this proposal deciding instead that this should be addressed in a separate proposal, based on impact assessment. Background information The aim of this proposal is to simplify rules on the authorisation and use of novel food and food ingredients under Regulation (EC) 258/97 on novel food and novel food ingredients in order to foster innovation in the food sector. The European Commission hopes the proposal will reduce the administrative burden, length and costs of the authorisation procedure for the food industry (18 months instead of three years), thus benefitting in particular SMEs. The current framework requires that a Member State food assessment body first assess an application for a pre-market authorisation. The Commission circulates the initial assessment report to all Member States for comments and objections. If no reasoned objections are presented, the novel food may be placed on the market. If, on the contrary, reasoned objections are formulated, the Commission requires an authorisation decision. This includes an additional assessment that is carried out by the Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This new proposal will replace the existing mechanism with a centralised EU-wide procedure, where applicants submit an authorisation to the European Commission, which request a scientific opinion on risk assessment from EFSA. Before taking its final decision to include a novel food in the permitted list of novel foods, the Commission will be assisted by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH). The general conditions for including a novel food are that the food:
  • Does not pose a safety risk to human health on the basis of the scientific evidence available
  • Does not mislead the consumer
  • Is intended to replace another food, and does not differ from that food in such a way that its normal consumption would be nutritionally disadvantageous for the consumer
Debate in the European Parliament – 24 September 2014 Members of the Agricultural & Rural Development Committee questioned the European Commission on the following points:
  • Definition of novel food is too vague
EC response: the definition remains vague but it is as a result of negotiations with the Council, and EC does not want to extend the scope of the definition
  • How will labelling of novel food be regulated?
EC response: the new EU Regulation on Food Information for Consumers will contain a specific provision dedicated to the labelling of novel food in order to give consumers freedom of choice
  • How will the safety of novel food be ensured?
EC response: EFSA panel in charge of the risk assessment will be composed of EU scientific experts and representatives of Member States More information Read the European Commission’s proposal for a regulation on novel food here.  

New EC proposal on GMOs use for food and feed

The European Commission has adopted a new proposal on the use of EU-authorised GMOs for animal (feed) or human (food) consumption that grants more freedom for Member States to allow or not the use of a particular GMO in their food chain.

This is a new approach that aims to achieve a balance between maintaining an EU-authorisation system, to ensure the same level of protection throughout the EU, and the freedom of Member States.

This legislative proposal will be now sent to the European Parliament and the Council.

For more information about the EU decision-making process on GMO visit:

– EU legislation on GMO:
– The new EU decision making process on GMO:

EU Nutrition and Health Claims admendments rejected

The Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament has rejected (16 June 2015) amendments proposed by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), which would have meant nutrient profiles were not required as specific by the 2009 legislation for EU Nutrition and Health Claims.

The aim of nutrient profiles in EU Nutrition and Health Claims is to prevent foods with high fat, sugar and salt for making these claims, which could mislead consumers when trying to make healthy choices. However, the nutrient profiles have yet to be implemented, and ENVI voted in favour of “eliminating the concepts of nutrient profiles” as the concept was superseded by the 2014 Food Information for Consumers Regulations, and have yet to be implemented.

The discussion will continue in plenary session at Strasbourg.

* 16 July 2015: A decision on nutrient profiles within EU Nutrition and Health Claims regulations has been postponed until September 2015, as part of wider European negotiations on better law making or “doing less regulation, better”.

Read more about the EU Nutrition and Health Claims regulation here.

Thematic JRC Report on Science for Food

Thematic JRC Report on Science for Food

The Report of the Joint Research Centre (JRC)provides a broad overview of JRC’s work and highlights the scientific tools, methods, analyses and activities that work towards authentic, safe and nutritious products and helping to attain food security while respecting the environment.

The thematic report is organised in six chapters: science underpinning EU food policy, acting today for a better tomorrow: global food security, research in agriculture: outlook for our food and land, food quality and authenticity, food for health and fostering the innovation flow.

Read the report here.

The impact of front-of-pack labels

A study recently published in Public Health Nutrition, conducted by the University of Otago (New Zealand), assessed the impact of two front-of-pack (FOP) systems on consumers decisions to buy, namely traffic light labels and percentage daily intake. University of Otago students (250) participated to the study. The findings revealed that despite being perceived as positive, the size and nutritional content of FOP labels were not the determining factor in purchase intent. Instead, the students were significantly more likely to buy foods with FOPs than not, regardless of the information provided. The research concluded that the FOP labels tested were a “complete functional failure” and called for further research into the effects of FOP labels before any compulsory deployment. For further information, visit: Robert P Hamlin, Lisa S McNeill and Vanessa Moore (2015) The impact of front-of-pack nutrition labels on consumers product evaluation and choice:an experimental study. Public Health Nutrition 18(12): 2126-2134

New Report on Food Labelling

French Food Agency (ANSES): Report released on the feasibility of a colour coded labelling system

The French Food Agency (ANSES) have released a report on the feasibility of a colour-coded labelling system promoted by Professor Hercberg, and developed by Rayner et al. (2005), but the outcomes are conflicting.

The system developed in the study is feasible; ANSES was able to create a nutritional profile for certain products, but some foods and food categories could not be assigned correctly or properly differentiated (e.g., sodas from waters). Also, the scale is relative not absolute, meaning it would have to be re-examined from time-to-time to ensure it relevance to current food products.

The proposed colour-coded scores would be based on nutritional values on foods, which will be mandatory throughout Europe from the 13 December 2016 (EU Regulation No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council), and would provide information based on sugar, fat and salt content, and energy as well as protein and fibre. However, concerns have been raised about the transparency of the process, and the verification of the data, because precise information about ingredient quantities and fibre, for example, are not mandatory and producers struggle to obtain nutritional data from reliable sources. Furthermore, values for fruits, vegetables and nuts would be hard to define.

The relevance of the colour-coded labelling system for the improvement of public health still needs to be explored. The model cannot take into account consumption habits (addition of salt, oil, cooking methods etc.), which can change nutritional values. However, the French Directorate General for Health (DGS) is likely to request further studies since the approach might allow consumers to receive rapid and simple feedback about their choices while shopping.

Read the report here.

More information:

Rayner M, Scarborough P, Stockley L. 2005 Nutrient profiles: applicability of currently proposed model for uses in relation to promotion of food to children aged 5–10 and adults.

EuroDISH Project

EuroDISH: final project leaflet published

Click here to download the report. 

eurodish final project outcomes

You can also visit the project website here.