The Exporters’ Association of Crete (EAC) announced that it opposes Nutri-Score, which remains the front-runner for becoming the European Union’s universal FOPL (front-of-pack-labeling) system by 2022.
EAC, which represents Cretan exporters from various sectors of the island, including agriculture, manufacturing, popular art and the food industry, analyzed the reasons they consider Nutri-Score “misleading to consumers” and an unsuitable food labeling system for several Cretan food products.
Extra virgin olive oil deserves nothing less than the highest category on any FOPL system that will be selected.
“The algorithm of Nutri-Score evaluates only a part of each nutritional profile and only the following elements: energy value, total fats, saturated fats, sugar, salt, protein and the amount of fiber,” Kalabokis Alkiviadis and Karpadakis Emmanouil, the EAC’s president and vice-president, wrote in a letter sent to Olive Oil Times.See Also: Nutri-Score Updates
“It does not consider the overall quality of each food product or ingredient (natural or chemical), nor the recommended daily consumption or the possible presence of healthy ingredients like vitamins, bio-phenols, antioxidants, monounsaturated fats,” they added.
“The result is that, instead of presenting valuable information to the consumers for a healthier diet, Nutri-Score directs them away from the totally natural or single-ingredient products in favor of the processed food which can easily adjust their recipes to achieve a higher score in the algorithm, but not necessarily become healthier,” Alkiviadis and Emmanouil continued.
The EAC cited the ‘Yellow C’ assigned to extra virgin olive oil as one of the specific examples of why the association opposes Nutri-Score. The letter was co-signed by the Association of Olive Oil Bottlers of Crete, the Association of Olive Millers of Heraklion and the Association of Olive Millers of Chania.
“Extra virgin olive oil, a single-ingredient and natural product with scientifically proven health value and a basic ingredient of the world-recognized Mediterranean diet, is classified in category C, while other processed food and soft drinks appear as healthier and in a higher category (B or A),” Alkiviadis and Emmanouil wrote.
The EAC also warned of “catastrophic consequences for both producers and consumers” if Nutri-Score is selected in its current form and demanded that olive oil be exempted from the Nutri-Score or any other pan-European food labeling system.
“Extra virgin olive oil deserves nothing less than the highest category on any FOPL system that will be selected,” Alkiviadis and Emmanouil wrote. “Apart from olive oil, our request is extended to all-natural or single-ingredient products (honey etc.), or else we propose to be excluded from any FOPL system.”
However, proponents of Nutri-Score argue that extra virgin olive oil has received the highest possible rating for fats and oils. Its backers contend that Nutri-Score grades are meant to be used comparatively among items of a single food group instead of between items from different food groups.
“Nutri-Score in no way penalizes olive oil,” Pilar Galan, a senior member of the nutritional epidemiology research team at the Sorbonne Paris Nord University, told Olive Oil Times in a February 2021 interview.
“Olive oil is rated C, which is the best score for added fats, seasoning or cooking, and even vegetable oils,” she added. “This ranking is fully consistent with public health recommendations. In Spain, as elsewhere, [those recommendations] do not suggest the consumption of olive oil without limit.”
“If consumers want to choose a bottle of oil, thanks to the Nutri-Score label placed on the supermarket products, they will easily see that olive oil is the best ranking compared to other oils,” she concluded.
Nevertheless, two committees of the European Parliament have called on the European Commission to exempt single-ingredient food items from any universal FOPL system adopted by the union.