`Legislation in Switzerland Would Prohibit Nutri-Score - Olive Oil Times

Legislation in Switzerland Would Prohibit Nutri-Score

By Paolo DeAndreis
Jun. 20, 2023 15:43 UTC

A par­lia­men­tary ini­tia­tive might make Switzerland the first coun­try in Europe among those that adopted Nutri-Score to change course and pro­hibit the front-of-pack label (FOPL).

The Swiss Council of States, one of the two branches of the par­lia­ment, has approved a motion of the Commission for Science, Education and Culture ask­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives to con­sider the poten­tial neg­a­tive out­come of Nutri-Score’s adop­tion.

According to the motion, a healthy diet requires a broad approach to eat­ing and can not rely on scores assigned to sin­gle food pack­ages.

See Also:Public Health Groups Urge E.U. to Expedite Introduction of Front-of-Pack Food Labels

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.


Benedikt Würth, the commission’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the coun­cil, told his col­leagues that Nutri-Score has sev­eral flaws, includ­ing the fact that it does not dis­crim­i­nate between ultra-processed and non-processed foods.

Würth added that Nutri-Score does not con­sider addi­tives, the pro­duc­t’s ori­gin or sus­tain­abil­ity.

As a result, Würth said tra­di­tional Swiss prod­ucts, such as cheese, are penal­ized for their high-fat con­tent, while an ultra-processed alter­na­tive may receive a higher score.

Given the endorse­ment of the motion by the major­ity of the chamber’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the motion will soon be dis­cussed at a national level.

The Swiss Federal Council, the national gov­ern­ment, sided against the motion under­lin­ing that Nutri-Score is vol­un­tary for pro­duc­ers and retail­ers and does not rep­re­sent the national nutri­tional guide­lines.

Swiss President Alain Berset warned that should the par­lia­ment approve such a posi­tion, the coun­try’s adap­ta­tion of Nutri-Score might have to be revoked.

Berset’s warn­ing comes a month after the Romanian gov­ern­ment banned Nutri-Score.

According to Tassos Kyriakides, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Yale School of Public Health, the fact that Nutri-Score does not con­sider food addi­tives and their impact on health is just one of its flaws.”

I agree with pro­vid­ing the con­sumer a clear and con­cise infor­ma­tion on a label,” Kyriakides told Olive Oil Times.

The prob­lem arises when you apply that across the board for every prod­uct, every food, every nutri­ent, with­out under­stand­ing that it is not just about the calo­ries,” he added. “[The label] should con­cern the con­text of how [a spe­cific food] is used.”

Take a soft drink, one with no calo­ries, as there is no sugar,” Kyriakides con­tin­ued. The con­text is how much you con­sume of that and what impli­ca­tions it has for your health.”

The Yale pro­fes­sor, among the orga­niz­ers of the International Yale Symposium on Olive Oil and Health, noted that dif­fer­ent labels could be applied to dif­fer­ent food to be effi­cient in help­ing con­sumers.


Take olive oil, with its unique char­ac­ter­is­tics,” Kyriakides said. A [veg­etable] oils ded­i­cated label­ing could help con­sumers choose among such oils. With Nutri-Score, they must com­pare olive oil to a soft drink.”

Nutri-Score founder Serge Hercberg explained how the rat­ing sys­tem sup­ports con­sumers’ choices within food cat­e­gories.

In a 2020 Olive Oil Times inter­view, he argued that the labels help con­sumers com­pare two or more sim­i­lar offer­ings.

However, Kyriakides said Hercberg’s argu­ment in favor of Nutri-Score is not as straight­for­ward as it sounds.

If con­sumers who do not know about olive oil are exposed to the Nutri-Score labels, they can well think that a soda drink would be health­ier than olive oils,” he said.

With the last update to the Nutri-Score algo­rithm, olive oils are now clas­si­fied as Light-green B” instead of Yellow C.” In a recent state­ment, Hercberg clar­i­fied that olive oil will never get a Green A” as it is a fat.

That means that 100 mil­li­liters of olive oil can­not qual­ify for a Green A. Hercberg noted that such a rat­ing does not reduce the proven health ben­e­fits of olive oil.

If the intent is to inform the con­sumers about healthy choices, then [not label­ing it as a Green A] means that you just ignored a big com­po­nent of what olive oil brings,” Kyriakides said.

The Yale pro­fes­sor also noted how all olive oils are rated Light green B” by Nutri-Score, mean­ing the algo­rithm under­ly­ing the FOPL does not con­sider the bioac­tive com­pounds that dif­fer­en­ti­ate that make extra vir­gin olive oil stand out from all the other grades of olive oil.

With its rat­ing for olive oil, Nutri-Score is not help­ing the Mediterranean diet,” Kyriakides said. People who turn to the MedDiet because they heard that it is healthy soon learn that olive oil sits at its core as a healthy super­food. Then they go in a store and see that it gets maybe a B or more prob­a­bly a C.”

The ques­tion is the con­text: how are you con­sum­ing [a food such as olive oil]? What are you con­sum­ing with that? How did it come to be part of [such con­sump­tion]?” Kyriakides added.

Take olive oil and fry­ing,” he con­tin­ued. We know that if you fry your veg­gies with extra vir­gin olive oil, com­pared to any other olive oil, you will absorb nutri­ents much bet­ter. There is syn­ergy there.”

You have to talk about that syn­ergy, not the stand-alone prod­ucts,” Kyriakides said. If you are dri­ven by calo­ries, you miss all of these inter­ac­tions, and there are many more exam­ples of that.”

In the intent to cre­ate an easy label­ing for food prod­ucts, this is actu­ally cre­at­ing more con­fu­sion,” he added.

Nutri-Score researchers have long argued that the FOPL does not harm the Mediterranean diet.

In a 2022 inter­view, Hercberg praised the Mediterranean diet and told Olive Oil Times, the Mediterranean diet favors olive oil among added fats but does not rec­om­mend its con­sump­tion ad libi­tum.”

The Mediterranean diet does not, there­fore, under any cir­cum­stances… pro­mote cheeses and processed meats,” Hercberg said.

However, Italians dis­agree. At the fore­front of the oppo­si­tion to the pos­si­ble intro­duc­tion of Nutri-Score at a European level, Italian farm­ing asso­ci­a­tions, food pro­duc­ers and local and national gov­ern­ments have repeat­edly crit­i­cized the French FOPL.

Recently, the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forestry, Francesco Lollobrigida, said Nutri-Score falls short of warn­ing against Italian food prod­ucts.

In his words, the FOPL does not dif­fer­en­ti­ate qual­ity prod­ucts. Instead, it guides and influ­ences [the con­sumers] in the name of algo­rithms towards some pro­duc­tions that have lit­tle to do with nat­ural processes.”

His words came on the heels of a state­ment of the Italian farm­ing asso­ci­a­tion Coldiretti accord­ing to which the FOPL only focuses on a very lim­ited vari­ety of nutri­tional sub­stances (such as sugar, fat or salt) and the energy intake with­out con­sid­er­ing the por­tions, para­dox­i­cally exclud­ing from the diet 85 per­cent of Made in Italy qual­ity prod­ucts.”


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