A virtual meeting between German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir and associations in the country has kick-started the development of a sustainable and healthy nutrition strategy, although expectations differ widely on the details.
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“Everyone should have the opportunity to eat well,” said the Greens’ Özdemir at the start of the associations meeting this week.
According to the German Ministry of Agriculture, the aim of the nutrition strategy already agreed in the coalition agreement is to “facilitate healthy and sustainable diets for consumers”.
The strategy should tend towards a more plant-based diet and a reduction in the consumption of sugar, fat and salt. The ministry sees catering in the workplace and in educational and care facilities as a starting point.
“It is downright shameful that our country, the fourth largest economy in the world, fails to guarantee all children a healthy and healthy meal (…) at school,” the minister also said.
He added that these measures should also better target vulnerable groups, people with a migrant background and children.
This also includes a planned restriction on advertising high-sugar or high-fat products aimed at children and young people.
Germany currently has about 15% of children aged 3 to 7 who are overweight, of which 6% are obese, Özdemir pointed out.
Meanwhile, just two weeks ago, consumer protection ministers from the Länder met in Weimar and came out in favor of a complete ban on the advertising of unhealthy food products to children.
Ready by end of 2023
The German government also wants to use the strategy – the first of its kind in the country – to tackle food waste “with a view to preserving natural resources”.
As a global strategy, it aims to bring together more specific existing laws, measures and strategies such as the food waste reduction strategy or the so-called reduction and innovation strategy for sugar, fats and salt in products. finished.
With its holistic approach and the tendency to focus more on whole food systems rather than primarily agricultural production, the planned food strategy is similar in approach to the Commission’s flagship Farm to Fork Strategy.
The government also said the strategy should be ready by the end of 2023, after consultation with associations and coordination between departments. Previously, the ministry also said it wanted to draft a key points document before the end of the year.
The government’s plan, while endorsed in principle by all associations and stakeholders who attended the virtual meeting, expectations varied to some extent.
More organic, less meat?
In particular, the strategy’s ratio of organic food consumption to overall consumption proves to be a bone of contention. In its agreement, the coalition government has already set a target of 30% organic food production by 2030.
The Ernährungswende Anpacken alliance – a coalition of 22 organizations from different sectors – demanded in a press release to aim for a 50% share of organic products in collective catering by 2023.
But the German Farmers’ Association believes that regional foods, whether from conventional or organic production, should also be supported, a spokesperson told EURACTIV Germany.
The association also called for the strategy to engage in mixed feeding. The same was said in a statement by the German Food Association representing industry, which said that foods of animal and plant origin “make an important contribution to an energy and nutrient supply based on needs”.
A “plant-based diet from field to plate” is one of Ernährungswende Anpacken’s 10 basic requirements for the strategy.
But stakeholders also disagree on whether the nutrition strategy should be anchored in hard or soft, more voluntary measures.
For example, the alliance of associations promotes “steering taxes” either by lowering VAT on sustainable or animal-friendly products while lowering VAT for others. In contrast, the German Farmers Association strictly rejects a “punitive tax to steer nutrition” as “condescending consumers”.
Meanwhile, the food association has also come out in favor of volunteerism and adherence to “market economy principles” regarding food businesses.
The strategy must therefore “take into account that it is up to the company to decide what concrete measures can be taken at company level”, the food association added.
[Edited by Oliver Noyan/Alice Taylor]