Seven Countries Protest Adoption of Nutri-Score at European Meeting

Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece, Latvia, Hungary, Cyprus and Romania asked the E.U. to take a new approach to the subject of front-of-pack labeling.
Sep. 28, 2020
Paolo DeAndreis

Recent News

The ongo­ing debate about which uni­ver­sal food label­ing sys­tem the European Union will adopt took a new turn this week after seven coun­tries, led by Italy, pre­sented their so-called non-paper at the European Union Agriculture and Fisheries Council.

The non-paper is an offi­cial rebut­tal to the French-backed Nutri-Score sys­tem and intro­duced a set of desired prin­ci­ples” that the seven-nation bloc seeks to enshrine in any future E.U.-wide food label­ing sys­tem.

(An E.U.-wide food label­ing sys­tem) should take into account the daily nutri­tional intake, be under­stand­able with­out using sim­plis­tic tools like col­ors on pack­ages. Diet and nutri­tional health are con­cepts much more com­plex than an algo­rithm.- Teresa Bellanova, Italian Minister of Agriculture

Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece, Latvia, Hungary, Cyprus and Romania also have asked that the E.U. take a new approach to the whole sub­ject of front-of-pack label­ing.

During its pre­sen­ta­tion, the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Teresa Bellanova, described the doc­u­ment as the basis for a new E.U.-wide scheme which, should exempt prod­ucts pro­tected by rec­og­nized des­ig­na­tions and geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tions, but also prod­ucts with a sin­gle ingre­di­ent, such as olive oil.”

See Also: Europe Labeling Systems Like Nutri-Score Could Save Lives, Researchers Say

It will have to be infor­ma­tive and not pre­scrip­tive,” she added. It should take into account the daily nutri­tional intake, be under­stand­able with­out using sim­plis­tic tools like col­ors on pack­ages. Diet and nutri­tional health are con­cepts much more com­plex than an algo­rithm.”

Advertisement

The doc­u­ment seeks to pull the brakes on the front-of-pack nutri­tional label­ing sys­tems cur­rently being adopted by some mem­ber states because, wrote the pro­po­nents, estab­lished mar­ket-led solu­tions should not run ahead of the European Commission, gov­ern­ments and reg­u­la­tory author­i­ties in deter­min­ing deci­sions that have major impli­ca­tions on pub­lic health, cul­tural val­ues and the inter­nal mar­ket.”

While the non-paper does not directly crit­i­cize Nutri-Score, the doc­u­ment does so implic­itly.

The sys­tem should not pro­vide an over­all eval­u­a­tion of a spe­cific food, but fac­tual infor­ma­tion on the indi­vid­ual nutri­ents con­tained in a prod­uct, in order to make sure that each con­sumer can choose accord­ing to his or her par­tic­u­lar con­di­tions and state of health,” the non-paper reads.

Nutri-Score is a front-of-pack nutri­tional label­ing sys­tem that assigns both a score (from A to E) and a color to show the nutri­tional qual­ity of any sin­gle pack­age.

However, the coali­tion behind the non-paper wrote that a E.U.-harmonized front-of-pack nutri­tional label­ing sys­tem scheme should con­sider the total­ity of daily nutri­tional intake rather than a generic thresh­old of 100 grams or 100 mil­li­liters, in order to avoid the penal­iza­tion of those foods that are usu­ally con­sumed in small amounts.”

Nutri-Score assigns a C” to olive oil due to its fat con­tent per 100 mil­li­liters, a score which repeat­edly has been called dis­crim­i­na­tory” by Italian food author­i­ties.

Still, the French sys­tem is the front-run­ner among the food label­ing sys­tems being con­sid­ered by the E.U. since it already has been adopted in France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and, out­side the Union, Switzerland.

Even though the E.U. recently approved the intro­duc­tion of the Italian alter­na­tive front-of-pack nutri­tional label­ing sys­tem known as Nutrinform Battery on a vol­un­tary basis in Italy, the non-paper appears to imply that con­sumers already have the infor­ma­tion they need, remind­ing mem­ber states that the cur­rent E.U. rules already pro­vide for a com­plete list of nutri­tional infor­ma­tion for 100 grams or 100 mil­li­liters to be included in food pack­ages.

While in recent weeks the European farm­ers lobby COPA-COGECA expressed its full sup­port” of Bellanova’s posi­tion, sev­eral social­ist and green mem­bers of the European Parliament have announced their sup­port of the Pro-Nutri-Score” ini­tia­tive launched by some con­sumers asso­ci­a­tions.

Now the non-paper has fueled the debate even fur­ther, with the archi­tect of the Nutri-Score, Serge Hercberg, strongly crit­i­ciz­ing the Italian posi­tion in his most recent tweets.

The strat­egy of Italy (and the agroal­i­men­tary lob­bies) is clear, ” Hercberg wrote. Nothing more than the unread­able and incom­pre­hen­si­ble back-of-pack table of nutri­tional val­ues.”

Hercberg, who accused Bellanova of deny­ing sci­ence, has also attacked the Nutrinform Battery front of pack nutri­tional label­ing sys­tem.

Nutrinform is counter-intu­itive, rep­re­sent­ing the nutri­ent con­tent through the icon tra­di­tion­ally used to mon­i­tor the charge of a tele­phone, but curi­ously used in the oppo­site direc­tion (the more the bat­tery is dis­charged,’ the bet­ter the nutri­tional qual­ity of the food),” he tweeted.

For the head of the team that devised Nutri-Score, Nutrinform Battery is com­plex and dif­fi­cult to under­stand due to mul­ti­ple and con­fus­ing infor­ma­tion.”

As he did in the past, Hercberg has also stressed that olive oil is not penal­ized by Nutri-Score. On the con­trary, olive oil is graded with a C, which cor­re­sponds to the best pos­si­ble score for added fats and bet­ter ranked than soya, sun­flower, corn oils (D), coconut, palm (E) and but­ter (E). Totally con­sis­tent with the Mediterranean diet.”

Hercberg’s reac­tion to the posi­tion of the seven coun­tries has been greeted with some skep­ti­cism in Italy.

Nutrinform is counter-intu­itive, rep­re­sent­ing the nutri­ent con­tent through the icon tra­di­tion­ally used to mon­i­tor the charge of a tele­phone, but curi­ously used in the oppo­site direc­tion (the lower that level of the bat­tery charge, the bet­ter the nutri­tional qual­ity of food).- Serge Hercberg, cre­ator, Nutri-Score

Francesco Capozzi, a pro­fes­sor at the agri­cul­tural and nutri­tional sci­ences depart­ment of the University of Bologna and founder of the Foodomics dis­ci­pline, tweeted who knows if Hercberg, father of the Nutri-Score, knows where the dif­fer­ence lies between nutri­tion and food sci­ence?”

Judging from how he attacks Italy and who­ever does not see the mat­ter as he does, accus­ing them of an anti-sci­en­tific approach, I would say that he does not,” Capozzi added.

The heated debate is far from over.

Here we go, at the meet­ing the lob­bies were present,” Sylvie Guillaume, a French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) wrote in a state­ment co-signed by some of her col­leagues. Not in per­son, but through the voice of sev­eral min­is­ters who have defended their inter­ests at the expense of European con­sumers and there­fore of the gen­eral inter­est. This is unac­cept­able!”

In a tweet, she called Nutri-Score a pre­cious tool for strength­en­ing the power and the fac­ulty of dis­cern­ment in terms of con­sumer health. Europe must not give in to pres­sure.”

However, in a recent inter­view, Paolo De Castro, an Italian MEP, stressed how the con­sumer should be informed in order to make his or her choice, not be con­di­tioned by col­ors.”

He also high­lighted that there will be suf­fi­cient time to find a com­pro­mise among the E.U. part­ners.

While farm­ers, olive oil pro­duc­ers, food com­pa­nies and e‑commerce enter­prises wait for the E.U. to make a deci­sion on the sub­ject, which the European Commission believes could be reached by 2022, many oper­a­tors are fol­low­ing the national guide­lines and adopt­ing Nutri-Score.

Some pro­duc­ers and early adopters of Nutri-Score, such as Danone and Nestlé, have started mar­ket­ing prod­ucts high­light­ing their Nutri-Score clas­si­fi­ca­tion as a plus. Some oth­ers have even begun to refor­mu­late their food items in order to fare bet­ter in a world gov­erned by Nutri-Score.


Which label­ing sys­tems do you pre­fer?

OOT Readers’ Poll: Nutrition Labels
35%
Nutri-Score
47%
Nutrinform
18%
Neither
Total Votes: 135





Advertisement

Related News

Feedback / Suggestions