Some have interpreted the European Commission’s "Better Regulation" agenda as an opportunity to eliminate nutrient profiles from European legislation. On 16 June, the European Parliament’s Legal Committee voted on the Regulatory Fitness (REFIT) Programme which held two amendments seeking to scrap nutrient profiles. Fortunately, these amendments were rejected. However, a new battle around nutrient profiles may well be around the corner.
According to the WHO, nutrient profiling is “the science of classifying or ranking foods according to their nutritional composition for reasons related to preventing disease and promoting health”.
Nutrient profiles allow processed foods to be classified in accordance with their sugar, salt and fat content. Nutrient profiles form the backbone of various health interventions, including traffic-light labelling, restrictions on marketing to children, ensuring fair health claims, introducing financial incentives to discourage unhealthy foods (e.g. fat taxes) and promoting health-compatible food provision in public institutions (e.g. schools).
A number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, United States, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the UK have already developed nutrient profiles. The recent publication of a WHO nutrient profile model marks an important step towards facilitating nutrient profiling at European level.
Despite a legal obligation to have nutrient profiles established back in January 2009,  their adoption by the European Commission is now more than six years overdue. Several MEPs posed questions asking when the profiles will finally be adopted.  The Commission’s answer is sobering: “At this stage, the Commission is not in a position to provide a definitive timeframe regarding their adoption and is assessing the best possible way forward … within its wider health policy and in view of the Commission’s policies in terms of better regulation.”
At the same time, the recent ENVI Committee contribution to the Commission’s 2016 work plan “calls on the Commission to review the scientific basis of the concept of nutrient profiles ... and, if appropriate, to submit a legislative proposal”.
Given that voices to eliminate the whole concept of nutrient profiling are also stirring, see the proposed amendments to REFIT  and a recent Parliamentary question, a battle around the scientific nature of nutrient profiles may just be around the corner.