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EDA policy conference

Date 02.14.2012 | Category: News
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Last Wednesday, the European Dairy Association (EDA) organized a policy conference on saturated fat and dairy for health in Brussels. Scientists and EU policy makers dealt with new scientific developments in the area of saturated fat and dairy, and discussed how these should be translated into public health policies. One of the main conclusions is that it is difficult to translate the complexity of the increasing amount of scientific evidence into clear but not oversimplified messages that policy makers require when it comes to translation of science into health policies. Taking on the challenge, EDA aims at facilitating this exchange of views, stimulating a better alignment between policy and science.

Professor Arne Astrup from the University of Copenhagen told the participants that the latest scientific findings indicate that we have to reassess the way we look at saturated fat. He argued that the effect of particular foods, such as cheese, on heart disease or stroke cannot be predicted only by their content of saturated fatty acids, because food sources of saturated fat, such as dairy foods, contain other nutrients that might decrease the risk for heart disease. In fact, recent studies show that the consumption of cheese does not result in any increase

in heart disease. He concluded that using single nutrients and single risk markers of disease are not the way to go in establishing dietary recommendations; people eat food, not nutrients.

The following speaker, Professor Ian Givens from the University of Reading, zoomed in on the value of milk and dairy foods in health and disease, illustrating that dairy foods are important dietary sources of key nutrients and that increased milk consumption over a longer period may offer some vascular protection. He also mentioned that a holistic approach is needed when looking at dietary recommendations: the food matrix is important and

the use of single risk markers may be misleading.

MEP Esther de Lange explained how policy makers use scientific evidence in the development of public health policy. Policy decisions on health and nutrition in the European Parliament are not only the result of a clash between committees, nationalities and political visions, but take also into account the current consumer trends. She mentioned that policy makers will not take scientific evidence for granted and rely on the advice and recommendations of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Science is very complex, so there is need for clear messages on the scientific evidence put forward to policy makers.

During the following panel discussion, in which the speakers were joined by Mrs Stephanie Bodenbach from DG Sanco, Professor André Huyghebaert from the University of Ghent and Mr Laurent Damiens from the European Milk Forum, the different views on science and policy making were clearly expressed. While Professor Astrup repeated that, because of recent scientific findings, the European Commission should reconsider its targets on the reduction of saturated fatty acids in foods, Mrs Bodenbach argued that the European Commission sticks to the EFSA recommendations on dietary reference values from 2010, indicating that the intake of saturated fatty acids should be as low as possible in a nutritionally adequate diet. Professor Huyghebaert explained that the translation of science into policy is a long and difficult process, often characterised by resistance to change. He acknowledged that consensus science should be taken into account and confirmed that food recommendations

are better than nutrient recommendations. Health policy should be formulated in a language the consumer understands. Mr Damiens confirmed that nutritional benefit is no longer the only factor of consumer choice; also culture, pleasure and current consumer trends play an important role.

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