New legislation unnecessary and unsubstantiated, warns very low calorie diet industry group

Posted On: 2nd August 2017

The European Very Low Calorie Diet Industry Group (VLCD Industry Group) has relaunched its Code of Practice to highlight that consumer safety is a key priority for the industry in light of proposed new legislation that risks wiping out very low calorie diet products (VLCDs) from the market and making weight management products less safe for consumers.

The Code of Practice, which is used to help the industry comply with the body of law related to weight management programmes, is being publicly shared to highlight the steps that the industry has taken to ensure the safety of VLCDs. The Code outlines that VLCDs fall under European food legislation, such as general food safety requirements, and that they are compliant with international standards. It also states that members should be honest and truthful and provide factual information that does not give rise to false expectations, and outlines the steps taken in the rare event of an industry member violating the law, which includes escalating the issue to the relevant authority to ensure consumer wellbeing. The VLCD Industry Group hopes to emphasise the safety of these weight management programmes, particularly in comparison with current weight loss alternatives available on the market – such as risky illegal slimming pills sold on the internet or “fad” diets – that consumers are likely to turn to in the absence of VLCDs.

New legislation put forward by the Commission sets specific rules changing how VLCDs should be made, which the Group has identified would result in VLCDs being very difficult to manufacture, would make them taste unpleasant, have an unappealing texture, turn rancid quickly and be much more expensive for consumers. The new legislation is not supported by any evidence showing that current VLCD compositions are anything other than safe, nor is there scientific evidence to show that the proposed changes would make them safer for consumers.

The VLCD Industry Group is calling on MEPs to reject the proposed act ahead of an expected vote in plenary in the European Parliament in September, and for the European Commission to reconsider these proposed rules.

Professor Anthony Leeds, Medical Director of the VLCD Industry Group said:

““Very low calorie diets are safe and regulated weight loss programmes available to consumers and have been used successfully for more than 30 years. The industry has taken great care to ensure that only safe, effective products are sold to consumers – as the Code of Practice shows. Our efforts risk being undermined, however, by this legislation, which in its current form, makes little sense as it may fail to achieve its primary goal of protecting consumers: it risks leaving them with no choice but to turn to alternative less regulated options that pose a much higher risk to their health. It is also partly unsubstantiated, as the European Food Safety Authority itself has openly admitted that some of its recommendations are based on theory rather than hard scientific evidence.

It is crucial that this legislation is reconsidered and revised to ensure the continued existence of these vital products and we urge MEPs to take these issues into consideration when the time comes to vote in September.”


Notes to Editors

The European Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) Industry Group is the European trade body for manufacturers and distributors of VLCD products which provide weight loss programmes for the very overweight and obese. Members of the Group currently operate predominantly in the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus, Greece and Poland.

Very low calorie diets (VLCDs) are specifically formulated weight loss programmes which are based around formula foods. Compositionally, VLCD products are food products that (a) contain regular food ingredients (vegetables, soya, milk, pasta, fat, etc.) in dried form; (b) differ from off the shelf conventional retail foods (powdered soups, shakes, meal bars) in that the quality of the ingredients is typically much better in VLCDs; and (c) deliver the appropriate daily amounts of essential vitamins and minerals which is extremely difficult to achieve with restricted calorie “conventional” food.