French Cheese Association Rejects ‘Simplistic’ Nutri-Score

Producers behind France’s Roquefort cheeses said the rating system failed to take into account the health benefits of their famous product.

Roquefort cheese wheels
By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 19, 2021 11:17 UTC
Roquefort cheese wheels

The General Confederation of Roquefort, an orga­ni­za­tion of the French cheese pro­duc­ers with a Protected of Designation of Origin (PDO), has con­demned Nutri-Score for pun­ish­ing tra­di­tional spe­cial­ties.

According to the con­sor­tium, the front-of-pack label­ing sys­tem’s rat­ing rep­re­sents a puni­tive approach,” and the famous cheese should be exempt from using the logo.

The desire for trans­parency for the con­sumer must be ratio­nal and have com­mon sense.- Stéphane Mazars, mem­ber of the French National Assembly

The con­fed­er­a­tion said that it had taken its stand, along with some elected politi­cians and local offi­cials, because the French gov­ern­ment plans to make Nutri-Score manda­tory for food pro­duc­ers.

See Also:Study: Nutri-Score Label System Does Not Discourage Olive Oil Consumption

This is para­dox­i­cal,” Sébastien Vignette, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the con­fed­er­a­tion, told French news­pa­per LeFigaro. Ultra-processed indus­trial food prod­ucts which con­tain preser­v­a­tives obtain an A or a B [on the Nutri-Score scale] while very nat­ural local prod­ucts are stig­ma­tized.”

Nutri-Score rat­ings clas­sify food on a scale bro­ken down into five cor­re­spond­ing col­ors and let­ters, from Green A,” con­sid­ered the health­i­est option, down to the Red E.”

These rat­ings are based on basic nutri­ent con­tent, such as sodium, unsat­u­rated fats and calo­ries, in a 100-gram or 100-mil­lime­ter por­tion. All cheeses are rated D or E since they are high in both sodium and sat­u­rated fats.

Due to the types of ingre­di­ents taken into account by Nutri-Score, some bev­er­ages, includ­ing arti­fi­cially-sweet­ened soft drinks, receive a Green A” or Light Green B.”

However, Serge Hercberg, the founder of the food label­ing sys­tem, told Olive Oil Times in a July 2020 inter­view that the rat­ings are meant to com­pare food prod­ucts in the same cat­e­gory. For exam­ple, the rat­ings for diet soft drinks do not mean the prod­uct is healthy, sim­ply that it is health­ier than reg­u­lar soft drinks.


This is an injus­tice. We are the heirs of tra­di­tional recipes with spec­i­fi­ca­tions which guar­an­tee the qual­ity of our prod­ucts,” Vignette said, fur­ther describ­ing Nutri-Score as a sim­plis­tic logo” in a time when com­plex­ity and nuance rarely have their place.”

Stéphane Mazars, a mem­ber of the French National Assembly in Aveyron, where Roquefort is tra­di­tion­ally pro­duced, added that if I do not have pre­vi­ous knowl­edge, between A and E, I will always go toward the A.”

For Roquefort, this does not make any sense,” he added. Labels are already an act of respon­si­bil­ity toward the con­sumer… The desire for trans­parency for the con­sumer must be ratio­nal and have com­mon sense.”

Vignette empha­sized that the con­fed­er­a­tion is not against Nutri-Score if it is deployed to clas­sify processed food, about which the cit­i­zens need to be informed. What we are fight­ing is its appli­ca­tion to PDOs spe­cial­ties.”

The confederation’s state­ment fol­lows a sim­i­lar one made by the two most promi­nent cheese Italian PDO cheese con­sor­tia, Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano. In a joint ini­tia­tive, the two orga­ni­za­tions crit­i­cized Nutri-Score, say­ing that it does not con­sider the nutri­tional pro­file of high-qual­ity cheese.

However, the General Confederation of Roquefort’s ini­tia­tive is being rebuked by Nutri-Score advo­cates, includ­ing the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), an early sup­porter of the French-born food logo.


Roquefort-Sur-Soulzon, France

Roquefort is a prod­uct high in fat, salt and calo­ries, so this rank­ing is no sur­prise for any­one who has ever checked the nutri­tional table at the back of the pack,” Camille Perrin, BEUC’s senior food pol­icy offer, told Food Navigator.

She added that Nutri-Score is not sim­plis­tic; it is sim­ple, in the sense that it is about trans­lat­ing the nutri­tional table avail­able in the back of the pack, to make it more under­stand­able and usable by con­sumers.”

According to the French con­sumer asso­ci­a­tion CLCV, Roquefort is good, but it is also fatty and salty, and the con­sumer must be informed that it is rated D or E.”

The CLCV added that Nutri-Score allows con­sumers to make an informed choice by com­par­ing at a glance the nutri­tional qual­ity of prod­ucts from the same fam­ily. Why not allow it for cheese?”

According to data from Statista, a mar­ket research firm, approx­i­mately 20,000 tons of Roquefort are pro­duced in France each year. Seven thou­sand tons of those are cer­ti­fied with PDO sta­tus, of which 25 per­cent are exported abroad.

Nutri-Score remains the front run­ner to be selected as the European Union’s stan­dard­ized food label­ing sys­tem. The European Commission intends to choose a front-of-pack label­ing plat­form by the end of next year.

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