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Food Information Regulation: Failing to address ongoing concerns about obesity
Many of the most serious health problems in the world today relate to diet. Obesity has reached pandemic proportions. It is a factor in heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. It is generally understood that diabetics and those with incipient heart disease can ameliorate their conditions by losing weight. Society generally has a clear interest in ensuring that everyone attends to the quality and quantity of their food intake. Food labelling is of critical importance to this. Hence the introduction of new EU food labelling laws, which come into effect on a staggered basis between 2014 and 2016. The introduction of these much-heralded changes has followed a protracted legislative process which started as early as January 2008. Some key amendments to existing laws will be made. Potentially, the most significant of these is that the presentation of nutrition information will be made compulsory on the packaging of almost all food products for the first time. Despite this, it is here argued that the new provisions will do little to address concerns about increasing rates of obesity and related illnesses. The EU Commission has clearly accepted that there is a problem, and that it needs to be dealt with. The Member States are constrained in any response that they may wish to make due to the restricitve nature of TFEU rules on the free movement of goods. This article contends that if free movement rules continue to be rigidly applied in important health matters such as this, then there is an onus on EU legislators to take more meaningful action to deal with diet-related illness.