` E.U. Approves Italian Alternative to Nutri-Score Labeling System - Olive Oil Times

E.U. Approves Italian Alternative to Nutri-Score Labeling System

Aug. 7, 2020
Paolo DeAndreis

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The European Commission has given the green light to an Italian alter­na­tive to the Nutri-Score food label­ing sys­tem.

The deci­sion allows the Italian pro­duc­ers to place the new Nutrinform labels on their food pack­ag­ing. It also means that the Italian label­ing sys­tem will chal­lenge the French-spon­sored Nutri-Score as the offi­cial food clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem of the European Union.

We all want to help pro­mote healthy eat­ing styles. But we need a wide range of actions as well as a bet­ter under­stand­ing and knowl­edge about food. Those goals can­not sim­ply be achieved by putting a color on a spe­cific prod­uct on sale.- Teresa Bellanova, Italian Minister of Agriculture

A final deci­sion from the E.U. on which labels to adopt is expected by the end of the year.

The news from Brussels was met with enthu­si­asm by the Italian pro­mot­ers of Nutrinform.

See Also: Nutri-Score Gains Traction Despite Opposition From Italian Farmers

The European Commission deci­sion makes sure that Nutrinform Battery does not col­lide with European reg­u­la­tions,” Ivano Vacondio, pres­i­dent of the pro­duc­ers fed­er­a­tion Federalimentare, wrote about the deci­sion. This was needed for pro­duc­ers to adopt the labels on prod­ucts on sale in Italy. The label­ing sys­tem can now be applied on pack­ages on a vol­un­tary basis.”

According to its pro­mot­ers, Nutrinform’s con­cept does not label any food as good or bad. Instead, it shows the energy intake of the prod­ucts as well as their nutri­tional val­ues using a bat­tery graphic, while also mak­ing it eas­ier to under­stand how a spe­cific prod­uct can be part of a healthy diet.

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Battery graphics show consumers how many calories, fats, saturated fats, sugar and salt are in each product.

Nutrinform Battery does not impact con­sumers’ choices, dri­ving them towards some prod­ucts instead of oth­ers,” Vacondio wrote. It exerts an edu­ca­tional approach.”

The Italian alter­na­tive was not with­out its crit­ics.

Emma Calvert, Food Policy Officer at the European Consumer Organization told Food Navigator the Nutrinform was a clumsy attempt to sim­plify food nutri­tion.”

Everyone tends to believe that the more charged a bat­tery is, the bet­ter,” Calvert said in January. In fact, con­sumers should not strive to reach 100 per­cent of the bat­tery for a given nutri­ent; it’s the oppo­site. By con­trast, Nutri-Score does tick all the boxes of an effi­cient front-of-pack label.”

The Nutri-Score sys­tem on the other hand gives every food item a grade from A (health­ier option) to E (less healthy option) based on their nutri­ent pro­files.

Nutri-Score has come under fire by many in Italy for grad­ing extra vir­gin olive oil with a C,” while other prod­ucts with lower fat con­tent, but less nutri­tional value, receive higher rat­ings.

Teresa Bellanova, the Italian Minister of Agriculture, dis­cussed the food scor­ing sys­tems with her Spanish, Greek and Romanian coun­ter­parts just ahead of the E.U. deci­sion. She crit­i­cized label­ing sys­tems made by algo­rithms” that severely affect healthy diets such as the Mediterranean diet.

We can not even start to think that rel­e­vant prod­ucts for tra­di­tional diets, such as extra vir­gin olive oil, are being labeled with a red light,” Bellanova said. (Based on the cur­rent sys­tem, extra vir­gin olive oil would be labeled with a yel­low light by Nutri-Score.)

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Rome also believes that prod­ucts with a pro­tected geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tion should never be included in any label­ing sys­tem.

It is unac­cept­able that a top PDO [Protected Designation of Origin] prod­uct that brings top European qual­ity to the world could end up being labeled with a red light,” Bellanova said.

Serge Hercberg, a pro­fes­sor of nutri­tion at the University of Paris and head of the team that devised Nutri-Score, told Olive Oil Times that crit­ics of the sys­tem are tak­ing the grades out of con­text. He said the C” for extra vir­gin olive oil is the best pos­si­ble grade for added fats or veg­etable oil.

However, Massimiliano Giansanti, head of the Confragricoltura grow­ers asso­ci­a­tion, argues that the sys­tem is mis­lead­ing because it takes cer­tain foods out of their dietary con­text. He empha­sized that Nutri-Score clas­si­fies prod­ucts on the basis of their con­tents such as salt, sugar and fats with no con­text regard­ing when and how that food is to be con­sumed or in what quan­ti­ties.

Along with its other pro­po­nents, Giansanti argues the Nutrinform label instead seeks to edu­cate con­sumers about the deci­sions they are mak­ing.

The inno­v­a­tive Italian approach is based on edu­ca­tion and not on pro­hi­bi­tion,” Vacondio wrote. It responds much bet­ter than other sys­tems to the needs of our food cul­ture, rooted in the Mediterranean diet.”

The food pyra­mid reminds us that there is no absolutely good nor absolutely bad food, there are instead the right amounts and con­sump­tion rates for any food,” he added.

However, it will not be easy for Nutrinform to kick Nutri-Score out of the spot­light. The French label­ing sys­tem has already been adopted in France, Germany and Belgium and it is expected to be fully inte­grated in the Spanish food chain start­ing from 2021. Talks on its adop­tion are cur­rently ongo­ing through­out the E.U.

We all want to help pro­mote healthy eat­ing styles,” Bellanova said. But we need a wide range of actions as well as a bet­ter under­stand­ing and knowl­edge about food. Those goals can­not sim­ply be achieved by putting a color on a spe­cific prod­uct on sale.”

Which label­ing sys­tems do you pre­fer?

OOT Readers’ Poll: Nutrition Labels
39%
Nutri-Score
46%
Nutrinform
15%
Neither
Total Votes: 93




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