Although, there are some issues at which we might even laugh at the same time, but more out of despair.
An example that triggers such mixed emotions concerns an amendment to the EU-approved list of nutrition claims in relation to the use of the term 'reduced' (such as fat). At the end of the drafting process there was an unexpected last-minute change to the original proposal. The effect of this increased, from 25% to 30% , the level of reduction that would have to be made compared with the amount of the nutrient in a similar product, in order to be allowed to label a food as 'reduced'.
The proposed 25% level had passed all the consultations of Member States that lasted a year, up until the last moment when the final draft for consideration by the European Commission's Standing Committee contained an unannounced change from the 25% to a 30% level. This had not even been flagged up by the Department of Health's report of the meeting that was circulated to stakeholders, so implying that no discussion of the matter had taken place. Hence, the decision could be viewed as arbitrary, being based on an individual's personal opinion.
It is alarming that all the discussion and debate for a year beforehand over whether the 25% was appropriate, rational and advantageous to all parties should have been overridden at a stroke at such a late stage, particularly when a 25% limit is contained in the relevant Codex Alimentarius Standard, which the Commission tends to follow wherever possible.
A 25% reduction in, say, fat is significant in anyone's book. And, in the light of the government's recent announcement that it wished to see the population decrease its average calorie intake by 100 per person a day, it would help to meet this target.
Even if there was a valid reason for this arbitrary amendment, surely it is preferable to give the industry an easier target so that it can inform consumers. Better that than put it beyond reach and reduce the incentive to reformulate. If the UK's cheese producers, for example, were allowed to make a claim on cheese with 25% less fat, the scope for innovation would be increased and a greater variety of healthier cheeses would be available.
This development is yet another example of Commission officials apparently overriding conclusions from previous democratic debate. Or could it have been a typographical error?