Germany Formally Adopts Nutri-Score Labels as Debate Continues

Germany’s decision to introduce Nutri-Score as its official front-of-pack label has been met with criticism.
Julia Klöckner, Federal Minister of Nutrition
By Paolo DeAndreis
Nov. 23, 2020 10:52 UTC

Nutri-Score has gained a key ally on its path to become the European Union’s food label­ing sys­tem of choice with Germany for­mally intro­duc­ing the nutri­tional grad­ing sys­tem in its inter­nal mar­ket.

The French-born front-of-pack label (FOPL), which had already been adopted by sev­eral com­pa­nies in Germany, will now be avail­able on a vol­un­tary basis to all food pack­ag­ing com­pa­nies.

Food Minister Julia Klöckner called the adop­tion of Nutri-Scoreone of the major nutri­tional pol­icy projects” in Germany by offer­ing con­sumers an easy-to-under­stand way to com­pare food prod­ucts on the shelves.

In a press release, the min­is­ter empha­sized how the gov­ern­ment hopes Nutri-Score will appear on a wide range of prod­ucts since it rep­re­sents an answer to years of dis­cus­sions about how to reg­u­late the amounts of sugar, salt and fat found in food.

See Also:Italian Researchers Say Nutri-Score Treats Shoppers Like Children

Now, busi­ness and trade have to go along with it,” she said, refer­ring to the pub­li­ca­tion of the leg­is­la­tion in the Federal Law Gazette.

Nutri-Score is hardly a nov­elty for German con­sumers. According to the German news­pa­per Weser Kurier, as early as last spring the Hamburg Consumer Center had already found almost 1,000 prod­ucts labeled with the French clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem on super­mar­ket shelves.

While the five-col­ored food grad­ing sys­tem can already be seen on food items rang­ing from veg­eta­bles to frozen pizza and dairy prod­ucts to fish, it is now expected to become even more wide­spread.

Some of the largest retail chains, includ­ing Lidl and Aldi, have wel­comed Nutri-Score and are start­ing to put their sub­stan­tial weight and influ­ence behind the sys­tem.

In a press release, offi­cials from Lidl said: Now that the legal basis has been founded, we will begin label­ing all of our branded prod­ucts.”

Aldi, too, has spo­ken of a quick intro­duc­tion of Nutri-Score: We are already in con­tact with our sup­pli­ers regard­ing the label­ing of our prod­ucts.”

Consumer orga­ni­za­tions also greeted the new sys­tem with enthu­si­asm.

Klaus Müller, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Federation of the Consumers Associations in Germany, said man­dat­ing Nutri-Score labels on all foods may lead to a com­pe­ti­tion among pro­duc­ers since it is now worth­while to man­u­fac­ture bet­ter, health­ier prod­ucts.”



The German adop­tion of Nutri-Score was not met with unan­i­mous con­sen­sus in Europe, how­ever. Ivan Vacondio, head of the Italian indus­trial food com­pa­nies fed­er­a­tion, Federalimentare, referred to dis­ap­point­ment of the Italian pro­duc­ers for a choice that appears hasty and not thor­oughly appro­pri­ate for the German food tra­di­tions.”

Vacondio also noted how the German Nutri-Score adop­tion decree refers to the FOPL accord­ing to the guide­lines set by the copy­right holder, which is an agency con­nected to the French Health Ministry.”

This means that the attempt of mod­i­fy­ing the algo­rithm to adapt it to the national guide­lines is legally unfea­si­ble,” he added, in ref­er­ence to the ongo­ing talks in Germany about spe­cific mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the newly adopted clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem. The German Food Ministry said talks are still ongo­ing.

Among the issues Italian pro­duc­ers and politi­cians take with Nutri-Score is its low rat­ing of tra­di­tional foods, such as extra vir­gin olive oil, which is graded with a C. They argue that Nutri-Score takes these foods out of their dietary con­text and the FOPL clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem may drive some con­sumers away from mak­ing health­ier choices as a result.

See Also:Nutri-Score Label More Effective Than NutrInform, Study Finds

Slovakia has joined the list of coun­tries that do not endorse the French FOPL, with the country’s min­istry of agri­cul­ture opt­ing instead to adopt the Nutrinform Battery, which is the rival food clas­si­fi­ca­tion and label­ing sys­tem devel­oped in Italy and spon­sored by the Italian gov­ern­ment.

According to local news agency Aktuality, Slovakian Minister of Agriculture Jan Mikovsky, believes that it would be appro­pri­ate to reach a har­mo­nized nutri­tion front-of-pack label­ing sys­tem at E.U. level capa­ble of meet­ing the dietary needs of all E.U. cit­i­zens.”


A spokesper­son for the min­is­ter added that clar­ity, non-dis­crim­i­na­tion, objec­tiv­ity and sci­en­tific bases are the attrib­utes pro­moted by the Ministry of Agriculture. Nutri-Score does not seem to be the best tool for label­ing, given the men­tioned prin­ci­ples.”

According to the min­istry, the best can­di­date FOPL is the Nutrinform Battery.


Nutrinform Battery

The rea­son is that it eval­u­ates the nutri­tional sta­tus of a food more accu­rately and reli­ably, as it takes into account spe­cific nutri­ent val­ues in rela­tion to the por­tion, com­par­ing them with the daily ref­er­ence intake,” the spokesper­son said.

Even after Berlin for­mally adopted Nutri-Score, the E.U.-wide debate on which FOPL to adopt and whether or not it should be manda­tory is far from over.

The Council of the European Union, which is cur­rently under a German pres­i­dency, will likely push mem­ber states to present their own sug­ges­tions on the mat­ter by the end of the year.


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