French Draft Bill to Exclude PDO and PGI Products From Nutri-Score

Nutri-Score’s creators rebuked the effort, labeling the representatives’ criticisms as uninformed and unrealistic for any food labeling system.
Aged cheese, France
May. 3, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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The cre­ators of Nutri-Score have crit­i­cized the pos­si­bil­ity that prod­ucts with Protection Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) sta­tus from the European Union could be held exempt from the front-of-pack-label­ing sys­tem.

The exemp­tion is at the crux of pro­posed leg­is­la­tion signed by 44 mem­bers of the French National Assembly in Paris. In their intro­duc­tion to Proposition of Law 4941, the rep­re­sen­ta­tives said the appli­ca­tion of Nutri-Score grades to PDO and PGI prod­ucts would dam­age the country’s tra­di­tional food indus­try.

The Nutri-Score label­ing sys­tem, which informs con­sumers about the nutri­tional qual­i­ties of food, is prov­ing to be unsuit­able and extremely penal­iz­ing for French food prod­ucts with a PDO or PGI.- French National Assembly, 

According to Serge Hercberg, Nutri-Score’s cre­ator, exclud­ing these prod­ucts from the traf­fic-light-style label­ing sys­tems ignores the sci­en­tific nature of the FOPL.

Nutri-Score assigns one of five col­ors (from green to red) and let­ters (from A to E) to clas­sify a pack­aged food prod­uct based on its macronu­tri­ent con­tent per 100 grams or 100 mil­li­liters.

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The FOPL’s cre­ators have long said the label is meant to help cus­tomers com­pare dif­fer­ent food items from the same groups (e.g., edi­ble oils or break­fast cere­als).

See Also:Critics of Nutri-Score Demand Reform to Ratings of PDO and PGI Foods

The European Commission has said it is eval­u­at­ing sev­eral dif­fer­ent FOPLs and will select one for manda­tory, E.U.-wide adop­tion by the end of the year. Nutri-Score is widely seen as the front run­ner.

The Nutri-Score label­ing sys­tem, which informs con­sumers about the nutri­tional qual­i­ties of food, is prov­ing to be unsuit­able and extremely penal­iz­ing for French food prod­ucts with a PDO or PGI, in par­tic­u­lar for cheeses,” the French rep­re­sen­ta­tives wrote in the pro­posal.

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More than 90 per­cent of them get the worst grades and are clas­si­fied D or E because of their fat, salt and caloric con­tent,” they added.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives fur­ther crit­i­cized Nutri-Score for using a bench­mark mea­sure of 100 grams or mil­li­liters to judge food instead of gen­eral serv­ing sizes. They cited cheese as an exam­ple and said, aver­age con­sump­tion is around 35 grams per day in France.”

Nutri-Score is also crit­i­cized by the pro­posed law because it does not pro­vide infor­ma­tion on the degree of trans­for­ma­tion of the prod­uct or the pres­ence of addi­tives, col­or­ings or preser­v­a­tives, nor on its impact on the envi­ron­ment.”

Thus, cheeses, made from a list of sim­ple ingre­di­ents and with­out addi­tives, based on proven tra­di­tional recipes, are para­dox­i­cally less well rated than cer­tain hyper-processed indus­trial prod­ucts,” the rep­re­sen­ta­tives added.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives also crit­i­cized Nutri-Score for not con­sid­er­ing the pres­ence of micronu­tri­ents, such as vit­a­mins, min­er­als and trace ele­ments, while cheese remains the main source of cal­cium and phos­pho­rus in our diet.”

Although Nutri-Score focuses solely on inform­ing con­sumers about the nutri­tional com­po­si­tion of foods, this already rep­re­sents a lot in terms of pub­lic health, as evi­denced by the mul­ti­ple prospec­tive cohort stud­ies.- Nutir-Score cre­ators, 

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives fear that the adop­tion of Nutri-Score would dis­cour­age con­sumers from eat­ing tra­di­tional prod­ucts, such as cheeses, and ban pro­duc­ers from adver­tis­ing them, as the French Public Health Agency has already rec­om­mended that food rated with an Orange‑D or Red‑E should not be adver­tised.

In a rebut­tal to the claims and accu­sa­tions from leg­is­la­tors on its blog, Nutri-Score’s cre­ators replied that many PDO and PGI prod­ucts are not exempt from addi­tives while also being sub­ject to ultra-pro­cess­ing.

The researchers added how many PDO and PGI cold cuts include addi­tives such as nitrites, which are added by food man­u­fac­tur­ers to pre­serve them.

The Nutri-Score blog also noted how ultra-pro­cess­ing and nutri­tional com­po­si­tion are two dif­fer­ent dimen­sions of foods, each of which has the capac­ity to impact the health of indi­vid­u­als through dif­fer­ent mech­a­nisms.”

According to the Nutri-Score team, the label­ing sys­tem pro­vides infor­ma­tion exclu­sively on the nutri­tional com­po­si­tion of foods, which also means that it can­not include the other health dimen­sions of foods in its cal­cu­la­tion: ultra-pro­cess­ing, addi­tives, neo-trans­formed com­pounds.”

See Also:PDO Cheese Producers Say Nutri-Score Ignores Italian Culinary Tradition

The researchers said there is no logo avail­able any­where that sum­ma­rizes all dimen­sions of foods through a sin­gle and reli­able indi­ca­tor. This is a limit of nutri­tional logos that must be accepted.”

It is not by chance, and cer­tainly not by incom­pe­tence, that no research team in the world, no pub­lic health struc­ture, no national or inter­na­tional com­mit­tee of experts, nor even the World Health Organization has been able to design such a syn­thetic indi­ca­tor today,” the Nutri-Score cre­ators wrote.

Rebuking the the­sis of the pro­posed law, Nutri-Score researchers said that although Nutri-Score focuses solely on inform­ing con­sumers about the nutri­tional com­po­si­tion of foods, this already rep­re­sents a lot in terms of pub­lic health, as evi­denced by the mul­ti­ple prospec­tive cohort stud­ies involv­ing large pop­u­la­tion sam­ples fol­lowed over many years, show­ing the link between the fact of gen­er­ally eat­ing foods bet­ter clas­si­fied by Nutri-score and the lower risk of chronic dis­eases: can­cers, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, obe­sity.”



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