Making Prepared Foods Healthier & More Sustainable: The Case for Regulating Ready-made Meals in the EU

17 April 2024

Making Prepared Foods Healthier & More Sustainable: The Case for Regulating Ready-made Meals in the EU

This new study, commissioned by 10 organisations, and conducted by the research consultancy group Systemiq, assesses the impacts of placing health and sustainability requirements on ready-made meals sold by large companies in the EU.  

It finds that a significant and increasing portion of food eaten in the EU comes in the form of ready-made meals (currently 17%, and rising rapidly), which are less healthy and sustainable than food consumed in other forms.  

Placing legal requirements on the content of these meals could thus significantly reduce the harmful health and environmental impacts of EU food consumption, without burdening consumers:  

  • On health, it would reduce nearly all the diet-linked disease drivers in Europe (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity, etc). This would in turn reduce rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and diabetes.   
  • On environmental impacts, it would result in significant carbon emissions reductions: between 40 and 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually – similar to taking 38 million new cars off the road every year.  
  • On cost, the policy could save EU consumers €2.8 billion every year, because it would reduce expensive ingredient costs.  

Such a policy would be in accordance with the wishes of a large majority of Europeans: according to a 2023 opinion poll, 75% think that large manufacturers should be responsible for ensuring the food they sell is sustainably produced. 

The organisations supporting this publication call on the EU to require large food retailers to comply with minimum health and sustainability requirements for the ready-made meals they sell in the EU. The Sustainable Food Systems Law currently being developed by the European Commission could create a basis for such a legal requirement; it is therefore essential that the next Commission publishes the Sustainable Food Systems Law proposal as soon as possible.

Read the study

Categories: Reports, Meat consumption

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