Citizens’ Assembly on Nutrition – The Process

Participants discuss priorities during the first meeting of the Citizens' Assembly.

Participants discuss priorities during the first meeting of the Citizens' Assembly. (German Bundestag/ Robert Boden / Mehr Demokratie)

First meeting of the Citizens' Assembly on Nutrition: Participants define three thematic areas

After the ceremonial opening of the Citizens' Assembly on Friday, 29 September 2023, by Bundestag President Bärbel Bas in the German Bundestag, the participants had the opportunity to get to know each other and to exchange their experiences and expectations on the topic of the Citizens' Assembly. Afterwards, experts provided information on the major topics of food consumption, food market and food production as a basis for the following discussion in small working groups.
By the end of the weekend, the citizens selected three thematic areas on which the next sessions should focus: food labelling and nutrition facts label, animal welfare and animal farming as well as affordability of food.

graphic chart: Citizens' Assemblies on Nutrition - The Process

(German Bundestag)

Second to Fourth Session of the Citizens' Assembly on Nutrition: Animal farming and Animal Welfare, Labels and Markings, Affordability of Food

These three selected areas were discussed in the following three online sessions on 10 and 24 October and on 2 November 2023. At the beginning of each session, experts from the fields of science and practice gave interviews and short lectures to provide initial insights into various aspects of these main subjects:animal farming and animal welfare, labels and markings as well as affordability of food. In small groups, the citizens defined personal points of contact with the topics, collected specific objectives, explored areas where government measures could be meaningful, and pointed out conflict lines.

Fifth Session of the Citizens' Assembly on Nutrition: Insights from Politics and Practice

The fifth session of the Citizens' Assembly on Nutrition took place from 10 to 12 November 2023 in Berlin. On Friday, the participants could assess and comment on all measures that had been proposed so far in the format of a “writing conversation”. Furthermore, the participants listened to an expert lecture on different state intervention options in nutrition policy and their effectiveness.

In discussion rounds with 17 Members of Parliament from all parliamentary groups on Saturday, topics included the evaluation of prohibitions, animal welfare, the use of sugar in food, the influence of lobbyists on the Bundestag, and the work of the Citizens' Assembly itself. In addition, participants visited three destinations in Berlin in groups: Milchhof Mendler, Berliner Tafel e.V. at Berlin's wholesale market, and the canteen of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. At the second station of the excursions, participants had to assemble a shopping basket at the supermarket for dinner for a family of four at a maximum of 9 euros. This task made the participants aware of the challenge of many low-income families to ensure a balanced and affordable nutrition.

Taking into account these impressions, participants decided which "baskets of measures" the Citizens' Assembly would continue working on during the upcoming sessions to reach and flesh out its maximum of nine recommendations. 

Sixth to Eighth Session of the Citizens' Assembly on Nutrition: The Proposals Take Shape

In the three online sessions on 21 and 28 November and on 12 December 2023, the identified nine "baskets of measures" were further developed into concrete proposals for the final recommendations. Each participant worked on two to three different topics in small groups during these sixth to eighth sessions.Numerous experts supported the participants in this complex process of proposal development. Before the small group discussions, they provided information on the baskets of measures if needed. Throughout the sessions, they were available for questions and could be called into a small group upon request.

Final meeting of the Citizens' Assembly on Nutrition: the nine recommendations have been adopted

From 12 to 14 January 2024, the Citizens' Assembly on Nutrition met in Berlin for the last time and adopted nine recommendations on the topic of "Nutrition in Transition: Between Private Matter and Governmental Responsibilities". The final recommendations were based on the draft recommendations from the first eight meetings of the Citizens' Assembly and on feedback from the Scientific Advisory Board. They were intensively discussed and finalised in several sessions on Friday and Saturday before being adopted and prioritised on Sunday.

The participants agreed on the following recommendations to the German Bundestag, ranked by priority:

  1. Free lunches for all children: free and healthy lunches should be offered in all kindergartens and schools across Germany.

  2. Responsible grocery shopping made easy through a mandatory national label: There should be a mandatory national label for all products sold in Germany and the European Union. The label should take into account environment, animal welfare, and health and be based on scientific evidence.

  3. Mandatory distribution of leftover edible food by food retailers: supermarkets and other food retailers with a sales area of 400 square metres or more should be required to distribute edible food to charities that would otherwise be thrown away.

  4. Make the animal welfare conditions and origins of animals transparent: A mandatory and government-controlled holistic animal welfare label should illustrate the entire life cycle of farm animals.

  5. A new tax system for food: among other things, the definition of essential foods should be revised. Products such as unprocessed and frozen fruit and vegetables of organic quality, legumes, nuts and whole grains, as well as mineral and table water should no longer be subject to VAT.

  6. Community catering in care facilities: Access to healthy and balanced food should be ensured in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, retirement homes and other care facilities.

  7. A consumption tax to promote animal welfare: An earmarked consumption tax on animal products should finance the conversion of animal husbandry to species-appropriate farming. 

  8. Age limit for energy drinks: A minimum age of 16 years should be introduced for the purchase of energy drinks and similar products.

  9. More food control staff and greater transparency: The professional regulations for food inspectors should be amended to lower the entry barriers to the profession in order to address the shortage of skilled labour. Inspection results should be made easily accessible to the public.

In an overarching recommendation, the Citizens' Assembly also stated that information and education underpin all the other recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly.

The recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly as well as a documentation of the process were summarized in a Citizens' Report which was presented to the President of the Bundestag on 20 February 2024 and has been published as Printed paper No. 20/10300. This marks the end of the Citizens' Assembly's work and the start of the debate of the recommendations in the parliamentary process. The Citizens’ Report was discussed by the Bundestag during the plenary sitting on 14 March 2024 and then referred to the Committee on Food and Agriculture as the lead committee.