`Italy Ramps up Nutri-Score Criticism as Deadline for E.U. Food Labeling System Looms - Olive Oil Times

Italy Ramps up Nutri-Score Criticism as Deadline for E.U. Food Labeling System Looms

Nov. 22, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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The Italian food pro­duc­tion chains as well as the Italian gov­ern­ment, all par­ties sit­ting in the two branches of the par­lia­ment and all involved com­pa­nies in Italy oppose Nutri-Score,” Stefano Patuanelli, the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies told the nation’s Chamber of Deputies.

He added that the whole coun­try is fight­ing against a sys­tem that aims at con­di­tion­ing the con­sumer instead of inform­ing the pub­lic.”

Patuanelli told law­mak­ers that the Italian gov­ern­ment is actively work­ing with other European Union mem­bers to unite the coun­tries opposed to imple­ment­ing the French-born food rat­ing and front-of-pack label­ing (FOPL) sys­tem.

See Also: Nutri-Score Coverage

He said that it remains an ongo­ing process, given that the European Commission plans to select a pan-European FOPL by the end of 2022.

Among the Italian minister’s griev­ances with Nutri-Score is that it labels food as either good” or bad,” which he insisted are cat­e­gories that can­not be applied to food.”

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However, replac­ing Nutri-Score with an alter­na­tive sys­tem remains an uphill bat­tle for the Italians as France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Spain have already adopted the FOPL.

The label­ing sys­tem rates food on a five let­ter-color scale, from the health­i­est Green A” down to the Red E.”

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Nutri-Score eval­u­ates food items for the pres­ence of fat, salt, sugar and calo­ries in 100 grams or 100 mil­li­liters sam­ples of food prod­ucts. Members of the olive oil sec­tor across Europe all take issue with the Yellow C” given to all types of olive oil and sev­eral other veg­etable oils.

However, sup­port­ers of Nutri-Score stress that the sys­tem is meant to be used to com­pare prod­ucts of the same cat­e­gory and empha­size that a Yellow C” is the best score for edi­ble fat.

See Also: Researchers Offer a Different Approach to Rating Foods

Despite these dis­claimers, Patuanelli and many of his allies in Italy and abroad con­tend Nutri-Score is a sys­tem that pro­motes processed and ultra-processed food, mostly mar­keted with envi­ron­men­tally unfriendly pack­ages, and could seri­ously harm [foods cer­ti­fied with a] Protected Designations of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication.”

Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are over­seen by the E.U. and allow mem­ber states to pro­tect local food spe­cial­ties, such as meats, cheeses, wines and olive oils, from imi­ta­tions and forg­eries. Coincidentally, many of these spe­cial­ties have low Nutri-Score rat­ings.

Furthermore, many pro­duc­ers argue that rat­ing extra vir­gin olive oil with a Yellow C” ignores the product’s excep­tional nutraceu­ti­cal qual­i­ties.

As a result of intense pres­sure from across the sec­tor, the Spanish gov­ern­ment has already exempted extra vir­gin olive oil from its adop­tion of Nutri-Score.

The International Olive Council also is lob­by­ing for Nutri-Score to change its grad­ing cri­te­ria to accom­mo­date the health ben­e­fits inher­ent to extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion.

However, Nutri-Score con­tin­ues to be rolled across the food indus­try in some of Europe’s largest economies. In the last few weeks, sev­eral French fast-food restau­rants have started using Nutri-Score to label their prod­ucts.

According to the Italian olive oil pro­duc­ers asso­ci­a­tion Unaprol, that is the lat­est mad­ness” of the Nutri-Score sys­tem since French fries are labeled with a Green B,” one score higher than extra vir­gin olive oil.

According to Unaprol, processed burger buns are labeled with a Yellow C” despite pro­vid­ing none of the micronu­tri­ents found in extra vir­gin olive oil.

It is an unac­cept­able sit­u­a­tion, an orga­nized attack against the sym­bols of the Italian high-qual­ity food prod­ucts, well behind any sci­en­tific evi­dence and against com­mon sense,” said David Granieri, Unaprol’s pres­i­dent.

We can­not accept the deval­u­a­tion of a sym­bol of the Mediterranean diet, which is unan­i­mously rec­og­nized for its nutraceu­ti­cal anti-inflam­ma­tory and antiox­i­dant qual­i­ties,” he added.

Patuanelli also reminded leg­is­la­tors that the Italian gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues pro­mot­ing Nutrinform Battery, a con­tro­ver­sial rival FOPL intro­duced to demon­strate an indi­vid­ual food item’s nutri­tional value in the con­text of a bal­anced diet.





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