Italy Plans to Fund Mobile App to Counter Nutri-Score

The app is part of a €100 million effort to promote traditional Italian food products in 2023.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Dec. 1, 2022 13:38 UTC

Italy’s recently-appointed min­is­ter of busi­ness has said the gov­ern­ment would ear­mark funds in its pro­posed bud­get to cre­ate a mobile appli­ca­tion to counter Nutri-Score.

The app aims to pro­mote and defend tra­di­tional food prod­ucts with the Made in Italy cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, which Italian agri­cul­ture unions, politi­cians and food busi­ness lob­by­ists argue is under attack from Nutri-Score, a front-of-pack-food label­ing (FOPL) sys­tem.

The min­istry is expected to set aside €100 mil­lion from the 2023 bud­get to pro­mote tra­di­tional Italian food pro­duc­tion, with 10 to 15 per­cent of the funds ded­i­cated to the new mobile app. The bud­get would have to be renewed again for 2024.

See Also:After Algorithm Update, French Cheese Producers Renew Criticism of Nutri-Score

The deci­sion comes months after Italy’s mar­ket watch­dog declined to approve a pri­vately-devel­oped mobile app until the cre­ators low­ered the influ­ence of Nutri-Score on its food rat­ing.

Nutri-Score is a traf­fic-light-style FOPL that uses a com­bi­na­tion of five coor­di­nated col­ors and let­ters to rate how healthy a pack­aged food item is based on its fat, sugar, salt and calo­rie con­tent per 100-gram or mil­li­liter serv­ing.

The Green A” indi­cates the health­i­est option, and Red E” denotes the least healthy. All grades of olive oil are rated as light-green B” after the lat­est update to the algo­rithm.

While the Nutri-Score label­ing sys­tem remains among the poten­tial can­di­dates for a European Union-wide food rat­ing plat­form, offi­cials in Brussels recently sug­gested that it is unlikely that any exist­ing FOPL would be adopted as an E.U. stan­dard.

However, this announce­ment has not stopped the Italian pres­sure cam­paign to elim­i­nate Nutri-Score from con­tention.

At the November 21st E.U. Agrifish Council, which rou­tinely brings together the min­is­ters of agri­cul­ture of all 27 mem­ber states, Italy’s Francesco Lollobrigida attacked Nutri-Score again.

While speak­ing to his peers, he said his coun­try’s pri­or­ity is to pre­serve a food sys­tem which has grown through time” and branded Nutri-Score a tool which is mis­lead­ing with respect to the goals it sets.”

Previously, Lollobrigida lam­basted Nutri-Score at a wine pro­duc­tion event in Italy for giv­ing higher rat­ings to processed food prod­ucts than tra­di­tion­ally-pro­duced ones.

The traf­fic light model desired by the E.U. seems more a means to ori­ent or, rather, dis­ori­ent the mar­ket and con­sump­tion, favor­ing some sec­tors against oth­ers, dis­crim­i­nat­ing those of qual­ity and, for exam­ple, the Italian ones,” he said.

Most mem­bers of the new gov­ern­ment sup­port his posi­tion. While speak­ing at an event for Italian food pro­duc­ers ear­lier this month, the Italian min­is­ter of for­eign affairs, Antonio Tajani, described Nutri-Score as a colos­sal mis­take that is part of an attack on Mediterranean cui­sine. It’s harm­ful to the health of cit­i­zens and con­sumers.”

We act at a European level; the gov­ern­ment does so with great deter­mi­na­tion to defend the qual­ity of our prod­ucts against the incom­pre­hen­si­ble choice of want­ing to put those labels on prod­ucts on sale,” he added.

At the same event, the Italian health min­is­ter, Orazio Schillaci, said that front-of-pack label­ing sys­tems such as Nutri-Score or traf­fic light sys­tems rep­re­sent a sim­pli­fi­ca­tion char­ac­ter­ized by the absence of edu­ca­tion toward healthy eat­ing habits.”

Over the last few years, since its debut in France and the fol­low­ing adop­tion in other European coun­tries, Nutri-Score has been backed by thou­sands of nutri­tion­ists and health experts across Europe.

Several stud­ies have indi­cated the pos­si­ble ben­e­fits for con­sumer health that would come from its intro­duc­tion.

A final deci­sion from the Italian gov­ern­ment on the financ­ing of the new anti-Nutri-Score app should come before the end of the year.


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