Europe Puts Off Decision on Food Labeling

An Italian European Parliament member said the decision has been removed from the 2023 legislative agenda and is unlikely to be taken up again before 2024.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Dec. 9, 2022 16:46 UTC

The poten­tial adop­tion of the Nutri-Score as a manda­tory European Union front-of-pack label­ing plat­form has been removed from the cur­rent E.U. leg­isla­tive agenda.

The lat­est news was announced by a European Parliament mem­ber (MEP) dur­ing the national meet­ing of Coldiretti, an agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tion, in Rome.

The European Commission has can­celed its leg­isla­tive pro­posal for an E.U.-wide food label­ing sys­tem which includes Nutri-Score as one of the poten­tial can­di­dates,” said Paolo De Castro, mem­ber of the agri­cul­tural and rural devel­op­ment com­mis­sion of the European Parliament.

See Also:Italy Plans to Fund Mobile App to Counter Nutri-Score

According to De Castro, the with­drawal from the agenda means that the mat­ter will not be dis­cussed again before 2024, when elec­tions are due.

This means that this com­mis­sion and this par­lia­ment will not be able to pro­pose or to turn any pro­posed food label into law,” he added.

The delay in the leg­isla­tive process for a har­mo­nized and manda­tory food label­ing sys­tem for the entire European Union does not come as a sur­prise after com­ments from Italian and European politi­cians last month.

A deci­sion on the mat­ter was first expected by the end of the year and was recently post­poned to the sec­ond half of 2023 . The main rea­son for the delay resulted from sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences among E.U. mem­bers in the approach to food label­ing.

While sev­eral dif­fer­ent label­ing plat­forms have been taken into con­sid­er­a­tion, Nutri-Score was long con­sid­ered to be the front-run­ner after wide­spread vol­un­tary adop­tion by a hand­ful of coun­tries, includ­ing France and Germany and major food pro­duc­ers.

Nutri-Score is a traf­fic-light-style front-of-pack label that uses a com­bi­na­tion of five coor­di­nated col­ors and let­ters to rate how healthy a pack­aged food item is based on its fat, sugar, salt and calo­rie con­tent per 100-gram or mil­li­liter serv­ing. The Green A” indi­cates the health­i­est option, and Red E” denotes the least healthy.

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The announce­ment from De Castro comes days after the advi­sory body of the French Ministry of Health, the National Conference on Health (CNS), pub­lished an opin­ion ask­ing for the imme­di­ate adop­tion of Nutri-Score through­out Europe.

The CNS experts called on the European Commission and the European Parliament to pro­tect the health of peo­ple liv­ing in the European Union, present and future gen­er­a­tions, and to adopt a manda­tory nutri­tional label­ing, that is under­stand­able by as many of our cit­i­zens as pos­si­ble, espe­cially the most vul­ner­a­ble, and that has been sci­en­tif­i­cally proven to be effec­tive.”

The CNS added that Nutri-Score’s adop­tion should hap­pen by the fore­seen dead­line (2022)” as manda­tory Europe-wide nutri­tion label­ing.”

Before the CNS released its opin­ion, 23 MEPs wrote an open let­ter to the European Commission, appear­ing to crit­i­cize Nutri-Score while ask­ing for a dif­fer­ent approach.

According to the sig­na­to­ries, whichever nutri­tional label is cho­sen should be sim­ple” but not sim­plis­tic.” It should also have to avoid any judg­ment of value of the foods” and offer infor­ma­tion on calo­ries and nutri­ents per serv­ing.”

The let­ter also asked the com­mis­sion to con­sider how the label assesses non-nutri­tional con­tents, such as whether or not a food is processed.

According to De Castro, the de facto delay in the E.U. adop­tion process is good news, as it will allow more time to under­stand the dif­fer­ent opin­ions on the sub­ject.

As a mat­ter of fact, I do not think we need a sin­gle har­mo­nized sys­tem,” he added. There are so many cul­tural dif­fer­ences and dif­fer­ent lifestyles to find a com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem to include them all suc­cess­fully.”



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