`Nutri-Score Criticism Defines European Parliament Hearing - Olive Oil Times

Nutri-Score Criticism Defines European Parliament Hearing

By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 31, 2022 13:49 UTC

Nutri-Score, the nutri­tional front-of-pack-label­ing (FOPL) sys­tem, came under intense crit­i­cism dur­ing a round­table event held at the European Parliament.

Politicians, food and nutri­tion experts and other stake­hold­ers warned against the European Union-wide adop­tion of the FOPL. The European Commission is expected to announce a manda­tory uni­form FOPL by March 2023.

Nutri-Score remains the front-run­ner after both the European Food Safety Authority and the Joint Research Center found that FOPLs like Nutri-Score might influ­ence con­sumers to make health­ier choices.

See Also:Nutri-Score Algorithm Update Improves Olive Oil Scores

However, orga­niz­ers of the round­table said that the hope is that the com­mis­sion and par­lia­ment will avoid tak­ing a pater­nal­is­tic and ide­o­log­i­cal approach and rather work to improve con­sumer knowl­edge and free­dom and, above all, take into con­sid­er­a­tion the cut­ting-edge sci­en­tific research in the field of nutri­tion.”

According to the nutri­tion sci­en­tists in atten­dance, the lat­est stud­ies show the need to adopt a FOPL that rec­og­nizes the indi­vid­ual needs of each con­sumer and raises aware­ness about the nutri­tional qual­i­ties of the food.

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.

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Michele Carruba, direc­tor of the obe­sity research cen­ter at the University of Milan, and Ramon Estruch, senior con­sul­tant at the inter­nal med­i­cine depart­ment of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, empha­sized the rel­e­vance of con­sid­er­ing the phys­i­o­log­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics and the pref­er­ences of each per­son.

Other par­tic­i­pants, such as Horst Heitz from Taxpayers of Europe and Véronique Willems from SMEunited, a busi­ness asso­ci­a­tion, said any FOPL needs to take indi­vid­ual food cul­tures into account and should not be a bar­rier to free trade among E.U. mem­ber states.

What must urgently be avoided are approaches that force small pro­duc­ers to aban­don their entre­pre­neur­ial and cul­tural tra­di­tions in favor of a process of ali­men­tary amal­ga­ma­tion that ben­e­fits the big multi­na­tion­als,” they said.

Pietro Paganini, eco­nomic ana­lyst and chair at Competere, the pol­icy insti­tute that orga­nized the round­table, said food labels sum­ma­rize core prin­ci­ples for the European Union, such as knowl­edge, edu­ca­tion and free­dom.”

Education is the core of a healthy and bal­anced diet,” he added. That is what allows any indi­vid­ual to make con­scious choices. The mat­ter is not only what we eat but also how much, when and where, as dis­eases such as obe­sity are linked more to our habits and way of life than to eat­ing spe­cific foods.”

Instead, Paganini said sci­ence is mov­ing in the direc­tion of per­son­al­ized diets, argu­ing that every­body processes foods dif­fer­ently and, there­fore, one set of rec­om­men­da­tions is not the best approach to nutri­tion.

Herbert Dorfmann, pres­i­dent of the European par­lia­men­tary asso­ci­a­tion, said, it is not easy to define what is healthy and what is not… To func­tion, labels must be sim­ple.”

However, he added that Nutri-Score is too sim­ple, imply­ing that its pur­pose of com­par­ing foods of the same cat­e­gory is not intu­itive and could there­fore impede con­sumer under­stand­ing of how they should eat.

See Also:Hundreds of Scientists Support Adoption of Nutri-Score Labeling System

Despite his con­cerns, Dorfmann acknowl­edged that a pan-European FOPL would likely cause some food pro­duc­ers to change the ingre­di­ents of processed foods to make them health­ier.

Still, such a label has no mean­ing when sim­ple prod­ucts such as toma­toes or pota­toes or when European-cer­ti­fied food spe­cial­ties are con­sid­ered,” he said.

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Georgios Krytsos, a mem­ber of the par­lia­men­t’s eco­nomic and mon­e­tary affairs com­mit­tee, said, Nutri-Score is con­cern­ing, as its deploy­ment can cre­ate con­fu­sion among con­sumers.”

He warned that food pro­duc­ers might try to manip­u­late the sys­tem by swap­ping ingre­di­ents such as sugar for arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, which would improve the rat­ing with­out mak­ing the prod­uct health­ier.

Krystos added that any FOPL should be mind­ful of tra­di­tional diets, which he argued cre­ate a cul­ture of healthy eat­ing instead of a pre­scrip­tion of what to eat and what not to eat.

The Greek MEP said bas­ing Nutri-Score rat­ings on 100 mil­ligram or mil­li­liter serv­ing sizes opens the door to fur­ther con­fu­sion, as many food items are con­sumed in far larger or smaller quan­ti­ties nor­mally.

Closing the event, Jordi Cañas, a mem­ber of the inter­na­tional trade and the employ­ment and social affairs com­mit­tees, said, our ulti­mate goal is to pro­mote health through edu­ca­tion and gath­er­ing suf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion.”

For that to be use­ful, infor­ma­tion needs to be acces­si­ble,” he con­cluded. That means that label­ing must guar­an­tee an informed deci­sion. Otherwise, it will not be used.”


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