May 2002: WHO report ‘Diet, nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic diseases’ is published. To speed up the publication, normal internal WHO procedures are not fully respected (the report is not considered by the WHO executive).
December 2002: EU member states makes a call for preventive action on obesity at the Health Council. The Commission is working on an action plan and has already adopted a proposal for legislation on nutritional claims.
January 2003: A Commission report suggests a ban on advertising is not necessary as the ‘Television without frontiers’ directive gives an adequate regulatory framework. But in some member states, pressure increases from MPs to restrict or prohibit advertising to children.
2003: Health Commissioner David Byrne makes many references in his speeches to the need to tackle obesity.
July 2003: Commission publishes proposed regulation on nutrition and health claims, its first major obesity-related legislation. It aims to give full transparency of claims on a scientific basis (eg ‘low fat’) so consumers can make informed choices.
November 2003: Commission proposes new regulation on addition of vitamins and minerals. Additions which do not meet a nutritional threshold will not be allowed to be labelled as having a nutritional or health benefit.
2004: The Commission work programme for 2004 should put some priority to all the above. It includes a proposed revision of nutritional labelling Directive (90/496/EC) in order to update it and ‘bring it into line with consumer expectations’. The various UK government groups looking at the issue will feed into the WHO and EU initiatives. Tobacco ad ban (Europe):
1988: An initial proposal focusing on bills and posters is introduced but blocked.
1992: The Commission resuscitates it as a general tobacco ad ban, going beyond the ‘TV without frontiers’ directive. This second directive is halted by a ‘blocking minority’ in the Council of the UK, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.
1997: The change of UK government leads to the end of the blocking minority and a political agreement is reached in the Council. The directive is formally adopted as Directive 98/43/EC on July 6, 1998.
1998: The directive is challenged by Germany on the basis that article 100A only allows for legislation in the field of internal market issues and there are none in many provisions of the directive. The European Court of Justice rules two years later that the directive is null and void.
2001: The Commission issues two new initiatives taking into account the ECJ ruling: a new proposal for a tobacco ad ban directive and a recommendation (ie non-binding) for those provisions that could not be the subject of binding legislation.
2003: This directive is adopted as Directive 2003/33 on May 26. It has to be implemented nationally by the member states.