14 May 2018

Meal replacements in the EU: An important tool in the treatment of obesity

Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE), representing the manufacturers of the Slimming food products, welcomes the European Obesity Day on 19th May and the EASO Policy Conference 2018 – “Obesity Policy in Europe: the need for Education, Treatment and Care” (planned on 17th May), acknowledging the growing burden of overweight populations and obesity in Europe.

Overweight and obese populations in the EU have reached epidemic proportions with their prevalence increasing at a rapid rate in most EU Member States. Current estimates indicate that over 50% of EU’s population is overweight having a massive impact on health care system expenditures.

In light of the growing obesity crisis, helping obese and overweight people to take back control of their weight and return to a balanced diet is a public health priority. Meal Replacements for weight control are one of the appropriate and safe tools available to consumers, and unlike fad diets each year, they guarantee substantial weight loss and play an important role for weight maintenance after weight loss without any deficiency in essential nutrients.

For many EU consumers, the availability of Meal Replacements for weight control has played a vital part in their weight loss and weight maintenance after weight loss, in a safe manner. Due to their very specific objective, sugars are replaced by sweeteners in Meal Replacements for weight control (for the sweet products). This is critical to limit insulin resistance for overweight and obese people.  Nonetheless, the European Commission’s current plans to re-categorise food additives in EU law will lead to the ban of sweeteners in these weight loss and weight maintenance products. SNE is very concerned by this situation which would either lead to an increase in the sugar content of these products to ensure acceptable taste for consumers, or lead to the disappearance of these products from the market. This would reduce the options available to consumers for weight loss and weight maintenance and cause further difficulties for obese and overweight consumers to maintain and comply with their diets. Consumers may be more inclined to choose less healthy alternatives which although tastier may not be in compliance with their balanced and nutritious weight loss programme.

President of SNE Professor Udo Herz comments: “Sweeteners have been safely used for decades in Meal Replacements for weight control. Which other foods than weight loss foods can prove so obviously the technological need of sweeteners, to replace sugars? ”

Ahead of the European Obesity Day, SNE calls upon the European decision-makers to maintain the use of sweeteners in Meal Replacements for weight control, ensuring the continuity of these foods on the European market.

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Notes to editors:

  • Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) is the trade association representing the interests of the specialised nutrition industry across the European Union. SNE members are the national associations of 18 Member States and their members are the companies producing tailor made dietary solutions for populations with very specific nutritional needs including infants and young children, patients under medical supervision, sportspeople, overweight and obese consumers, and those suffering from coeliac disease;
  • Meal replacements for weight control are covered by Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/1413 of 24 August 2016 amending Regulation (EU) No 432/2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children's development and health, laying down the requirements for the two authorized meal replacement for weight control claims, including specific composition criteria.