Nutritionists and doctors warn of the abundance of sugar in countless foods and the resulting, many overweight people. Sugar is not only found in soft drinks and chocolate. Sugar is also found in milk and many supposedly healthy convenience foods. Although there are corresponding efforts in the EU to do more in this regard, the power of the sugar industry is great, as the current report "A spoonful of sugar" by the NGO Corporate Europe shows.
Every year, the sugar industry spends 21.3 million euros on lobbying in the European Union. Its aim is to prevent stricter and more detailed regulations in the EU or. abate. "There are so many independent scientific studies that show a link between excessive sugar consumption and serious, health risks," says Katharina Ainger, CO author of the study. "But the fact that there is no consensus among EU authorities on the dangers of sugar proves how powerful the food and drink lobby is."
One success, for example, is that food packaging does not distinguish between how much natural sugar – such as fructose – and how much added sugar is contained. Thus, there were some EU countries that would have liked to see this information, but the EU opposes it. And with the EU Food Information Regulation coming into force in December 2016, it will even be illegal to write such things on packaging.
In Germany alone, seven million people had to seek medical treatment for obesity in 2014. Overall, the number of hospitalizations rose 7.1 percent in 2015 to 218 cases from 204 per 1,000 insured patients the previous year. And more than half of EU citizens are overweight or obese, study finds. Above all, the increase in eaten finished products contributes to this. Citizens are increasingly stressed and looking for a quick meal, or they can't afford fresh food. In 2014, ten percent of EU citizens could not even afford a balanced meal every other day.
According to the NGO, the sugar industry is working on several EU levers at the same time. Here's how the industry advocates for trade agreements like CETA and TTIP, which entail a loosening in the food industry. Complaints and lawsuits from companies are used to intimidate states when they want to introduce so-called sugar taxes, for example. The sugar industry also produces its own studies on the consequences of sugar consumption. Not infrequently, they also end up on the table of authorities.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), for example, has evaluated several studies to assess the possible link between too much sugar and obesity. Four of the five studies were from the business community. The result: EFSA said there was insufficient scientific evidence to support a clear link between sugar consumption and obesity. The World Health Organization sees things differently. In addition, companies use the market power they have to sponsor major sporting events.
FoodDrinkEurope association had planned to spend a billion euros on a successful campaign against the introduction of a Europe-wide food traffic light on packaging. The traffic light will not be introduced, although nutrition experts and consumer advocates support the system.