Italian Politicians, Farmers Unite to Oppose Nutri-Score

In response to a pro-Nutri-Score petition signed by hundreds of scientists, Italian politicians and farmers have united in opposing to the French labeling system while promoting its alternatives.

Matteo Salvini. Photo: European Parliament.
Mar. 29, 2021
By Paolo DeAndreis
Matteo Salvini. Photo: European Parliament.

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Resistance to Nutri-Score con­tin­ues to grow in Italy. Politicians, the lead­ing farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tions and the olive indus­try have all opposed the pos­si­ble adop­tion of the front-of-pack label­ing sys­tem (FOPL) by the European Commission.

Their often strongly-worded state­ments come after a peti­tion signed by almost 300 sci­en­tists and nutri­tion­ists asked Brussels to chose Nutri-Score as the offi­cial European FOPL. The coali­tion believes Nutri-Score to be the most sci­en­tif­i­cally sound label­ing plat­form.

We are fac­ing a fierce attack (from Nutri-Score) on the Italian and Mediterranean food cul­ture and its foun­da­tions, such as extra vir­gin olive oil.- Michele Sonnessa, pres­i­dent, Città dell’Olio.

Nutri-Score rep­re­sents a real dan­ger that could com­pro­mise the Italian agri­food sys­tem,” Minister of Agriculture Stefano Patuanelli said while ask­ing the whole Italian food indus­try to oppose the French-born FOPL.

The harsh real­ity is that the Italian exports reach mar­kets oth­ers long for,” Patuanelli added. They want to use Nutri-Score to dis­rupt our unique tal­ent to export prod­ucts with a sig­nif­i­cant added value… To hit [Italian food exports] they are ready to attack the Mediterranean diet, which is rec­og­nized by UNESCO as an intan­gi­ble part of human her­itage.”

See Also: Nutri-Score Updates

The min­is­ter con­firmed the Italian gov­ern­men­t’s com­mit­ment to actively oppose Nutri-Score and reach out to other inter­ested coun­tries in the E.U. to form a united front.

His remarks came dur­ing a hear­ing in front of the Italian Parliament in which rep­re­sen­ta­tives from all major polit­i­cal par­ties expressed sim­i­lar con­cerns about Nutri-Score.

Strong polit­i­cal attacks have been directed at Walter Ricciardi, one of the advi­sors to the Ministry of Health, who signed the pro-Nutri-Score peti­tion.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the con­ser­v­a­tive Lega Nord party in the gov­ern­ing coali­tion, asked Ricciardi to resign due to his stance on the food label­ing sys­tem.

Opposition to Nutri-Score runs deep in the Italian polit­i­cal sys­tem, with local gov­ern­ments, such as Piedmont, express­ing their oppo­si­tion to the FOPL. Italian rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the European Parliament, includ­ing Paolo De Castro, also have appealed to both the polit­i­cal and the sci­en­tific worlds to join the fight against what he described as the wrong sys­tem… that puts at risk our whole food her­itage.”

“[It is wrong] to give votes to food, when what is needed is to offer the con­sumers infor­ma­tion about the ori­gin and the char­ac­ter­is­tics of that food to let them make more con­scious choices,” he added.

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Ettore Prandini, pres­i­dent of the national farmer asso­ci­a­tion Coldiretti, also sided with Patuanelli and asked for an urgent inter­ven­tion to stop the attack on Italian national food prod­ucts.”

According to Prandini, should Nutri-Score be approved, it could even spread on a global level, directly threat­en­ing the €46 bil­lion Italian food exports recorded in 2020.”

While Nutri-Score archi­tect Serge Hercberg and experts such as Pilar Galan have repeat­edly said that Nutri-Score is an ally of the Mediterranean diet and allows con­sumers to com­pare prod­ucts belong­ing to the same cat­e­gory, Italian farm­ers con­tinue to oppose it.

Promoting the Nutri-Score clas­si­fi­ca­tion is like spread­ing fake news,” accord­ing to Città dell’Olio, an asso­ci­a­tion that includes Italian munic­i­pal­i­ties involved in olive oil cul­ture.

We must firmly oppose the fake news spread about a nutraceu­ti­cal healthy rel­e­vant food such as extra vir­gin olive oil that the Food and Drug Administration pro­motes as a rem­edy for ensur­ing con­sumers health,” said Michele Sonnessa, pres­i­dent of Città dell’Olio.

We side with Minister Patuanelli and the deputy sec­re­tary, Francesco Battistoni, to once and for all drop the Nutri-Score plat­form,” he added. We are fac­ing a fierce attack on the Italian and Mediterranean food cul­ture and its foun­da­tions, such as extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Sonnessa said assign­ing the Yellow C” to extra vir­gin olive oil is unac­cept­able and serves as a warn­ing sign to con­sumers against pur­chas­ing the prod­uct.

However, Hercberg and Galan have long argued that the Yellow C” is the best pos­si­ble grade for the ani­mal fats and veg­etable oils cat­e­gory.

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Nutrinform Battery

In a press release, the Italian Agricultural Confederation (CIA) made sim­i­lar remarks, advo­cat­ing against the adop­tion of Nutri-Score and for addi­tional research into the alter­na­tive Nutrinform Battery label­ing plat­form, which is backed by the Italian gov­ern­ment.

The bat­tery labels,” as they are often called, were offi­cially intro­duced in Brussels last January by the Italian gov­ern­ment.

Nutrinform’s pro­mot­ers like that the FOPL does not label foods as either good or bad, instead show­ing the energy intake and the nutri­tional val­ues of the selected food item using a bat­tery graphic.

In their view, this rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the nutri­tional infor­ma­tion helps con­sumers under­stand how a spe­cific prod­uct can be part of a healthy diet. However, Hercberg, Galan and many other experts in Europe have expressed doubts about the effi­cacy of Nutrinform Battery and ques­tioned its sci­en­tific back­ground.

The European Commission is expected to select one uni­form FOPL to be used across the 27-mem­ber bloc by the end of 2022.





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