Final Recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Nutrition

Participants present their recommendations to the President of the German Bundestag, Bärbel Bas.

Participants present their recommendations to the President of the German Bundestag, Bärbel Bas. (German Bundestag / Robert Boden / Mehr Demokratie)

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

From 12 to 14 January 2024, the Citizens' Assembly "Nutrition in Transition" met in Berlin for the last time and adopted nine recommendations on the topic of "Nutrition in Transition: Between Private Concerns and State 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 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 will 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.

In addition, a majority of the Assembly voted in favour of extending existing educational programmes on food waste (e.g. 'Too good for the bin') to target specific groups. However, this recommendation did not make it into the top nine.

No majorities for or against recommendations for manufacturer charges on sugary drinks and sugar substitutes

The question of whether a manufacturer's charge should be imposed on sugary drinks in order to encourage manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of their drinks was a controversial issue in the discussions of the Citizens' Assembly. Critics of this tax in the Citizens' Assembly feared that it would place an additional financial burden on consumers by passing on the cost to them, and therefore favoured other measures to reduce sugar consumption. As a result, two draft recommendations were drawn up at the eighth meeting: one for and one against a tax on sugary drinks and sugar substitutes. In the end, neither recommendation received a majority of votes in the Citizens' Assembly. 

The detailed texts of the recommendations including their justifications and voting results (approval or rejection and prioritisation) can be found in this PDF document.

President of the Bundestag: "Democracy was alive in the Citizens' Assembly"

Bundestag President Bärbel Bas thanked the members of the Citizens' Assembly: "Democracy concerns us all. In the Citizens' Assembly 'Nutrition in Transition', democracy was practised in a spirit of openness, curiosity and the courage to engage in objective dialogue. I would like to thank all participants for taking the time to engage with the issue of nutrition.

Their recommendations have given important impetus to our parliamentary work. Very concrete recommendations, such as free school meals for all children or an age limit for energy drinks, are now on the agenda and we, as parliamentarians, will work on them. All parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag should take a close look at these recommendations. The first Citizens' Assembly of the German Bundestag is a successful and innovative example of a living democracy".

Scientific Advisory Board: "Successful experiment”

Prof. Dr. Melanie Speck from Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences said on behalf of the Scientific Advisory Board: "The Citizens' Assembly experiment was a success. The process was very open and successfully represented a cross-section of the population. The discussions took place in a spirit of understanding rather than polarisation. The Citizens' Assembly is a model of democracy that encourages discussion. The citizens have become experts in a very short time. That's a great achievement.“

Presentation and discussion in Parliament 

The recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly were then summarised in a Citizens' Report, that was presented to the President of the Bundestag and other members of Parliament from all parliamentary groups on 20 February 2024. The Report 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.

The recommendations are not binding for the Bundestag. On the German Website, further discussions of the recommendations in parliament will be documented as well as their implementation if applicable.