11 May 2017

Helping the Consumer Help Themselves: Safety Tackling Obesity and Diabetes Today and Tomorrow

Last Wednesday, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), medical experts, consumers and industry representatives from Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) and the European Very Low Calorie Diet Industry Group (VLCD IG) came together to discuss tackling obesity in a safe, sustainable and consumer friendly way.

50% of Europeans are now overweight and 20% obese. Severe, medically complicated, obesity is rising most rapidly. Professor Mike Lean, University of Glasgow representing the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) pointed out “Diabetes is absorbing 10-15% of healthcare system expenses”.

Led by MEPs Annie Schreijer-Pierik (EPP) and Julie Girling (ECR), participants explored ways to help obese or overweight people to lose significant weight, to maintain that loss, and to return to a balanced food-based diet.Solutions include increased prevention as well as use of safe total diet replacement (TDR) products.

As a TDR consumer, Jeroen Bertelink shared a moving story of his own experience with these specially formulated foods. Having suffered from obesity for years and subsequent social isolation, Jeroen lost 94kg when following a weight loss programme using TDR: ‘You spend your days at home, playing videogames or watching TV (...) I tried several diets, including low carbohydrate ones but it did not work. Smuggling is not possible with TDR: one portion is 75g. You follow this recommendation.

The European Commission and EFSA provided some closing remarks on the Draft Delegated Regulation on TDR which will include rules to govern these products, based on the EFSA opinion published in January 2015[1]. Professor Mike Lean (EASO) pointed out that these rules should take into account the altered body’s requirements in a weight loss period: the fall in metabolism means that intakes of some nutrients e.g. protein, essential fatty acids, can be reduced below the Dietary Recommended Values (DRVs) for weight-stable healthy adults.Current compositional requirements of TDR should not be changed unless there is evidence of hazard, and none has emerged. For decades, use of these regulated products has proven effective and safe. To quote Professor Mike Lean ‘Ifit ain't broke, don't fix it’. 

Participants at the event – medical experts, and industry representatives – stressed their concern over the current draft Delegated Regulation on TDR. If implemented, it would negatively impact consumer acceptance, restrict information to consumers and potentially encourage them to turn to unsafe weight-loss alternatives that are not scientifically substantiated, not regulated and may even be harmful.

For these reasons, SNE and the VLCD IG reiterated the critical role of an appropriate regulatory framework for these products, and called on the European Parliament to ensure that the European Commission submit a new Delegated Regulation on TDR. This should consider consumer acceptability and health-professional experience when setting compositional criteria and authorising nutrition and health claims on weight loss products which are both critical steps in ensuring high levels of consumer protection and required consumer information.


Notes to editors:

  • Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) is the trade association representing the interests of the specialised nutrition industry, including slimming foods, across the European Union.
  • For further information, please consult SNE website.

[1]EFSA NDA Panel (EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies), 2015. Scientific Opinion on the essential composition of total diet replacements for weight control. EFSA Journal 2015;13(1):3957, 52 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2015.3957. Available online: