Polish government approves junk food ban in schools

21 April 2014

In February 2014, the Polish government finally announced its position on the proposed amendment to the Polish Act on Food and Nutrition Safety (the "Amendment").  As reported in the July 2013 Edition of Food Law Digest, the work proposed on the Amendment began in 2012.  However, although the government has indicated its approval of the Amendment, which follows in the footsteps of countries such as England, France and Latvia, it has also expressed some reservations.

The Amendment provides for a ban on selling and advertising unhealthy food (junk food) in kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools.  The ban would cover food and beverages which contain:

  • more than 1.25 g of salt per 100 g of product
  • more than 0.5g of sodium per 100g of the product
  • flavour enhancers, including monosodium glutamate-E621, E627-guanlan disodium, disodium inzonian-E631
  • synthetic sweeteners and sweetening preparations containing fructose
  • more than 1 g of trans fatty acids per 100g
  • more than 10 g of sugars per 100g of product.

The Polish government has noted that the Amendment should be (i) reviewed within the scope of EU legislation, e.g., EC Regulation No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers; (ii) that some definitions which appear in the Amendment have no reference to other legal acts (at either the local or EU level); and (iii) that the Amendment should be based on the latest research into junk food and its influence on nutrition. 

Additionally, the government stated that since the Amendment stipulates some requirements exceeding EU legislation it must be notified to the European Commission and other EU Member States to be approved by them.

Despite being supportive in general to the proposed ban on junk food in schools, the Polish government has questioned the inclusion of certain products such as yogurts and milk products with high sugar content.  According to the government, all dairy products (milk, milk drinks, yogurt and buttermilk), should be available in schools because children have a significant deficiency of calcium and milk, and dairy products are a vital source not only of these elements but also animal protein and group B vitamins.
Furthermore, while the Amendment initially stipulated that school principal would, in the case of a breach, be entitled to terminate the lease of the school shop, the government has proposed an obligation to terminate the contract.

The final version of the Amendment is not yet completed, but with the government having the majority in parliament, we anticipate that the Amendment will be passed in the near future, in a form incorporating the government's suggestions and changes.