The announced EU food policy should also strive to create future prosperity for businesses in good harmony with the environment and not only to “take policies against some parts of the value chain”, Nestlé Europe chief Marco Settembri told EURACTIV.com in an interview.
Marco Settembri is the executive vice president Nestlé and chief executive officer Zone Europe, Middle East and North Africa (EMENA). He spoke to EURACTIV’s Gerardo Fortuna.
- The Green Deal should also create prosperity
- Farm to Fork strategy needs some legislative action to be implemented
- Nutri-score is not perfect, but it’s the best system we have
- F2F should address the issue of confusion on date marking
- Word ‘burgers’ for veggie products should be allowed
- EU Circular Economy Action Plan should be focused on infrastructure
What are your expectations from Commission’s Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy? As it should cover the whole supply chain, do you fear that some aspects could be overlooked?
We need to see first what F2F will be and we will see it in one month’s time. It is true that something could be overlooked, but in reality, our expectations are that the Green Deal will give the possibility to look very holistically at all the elements of the food value chain and not only one part.
So, I hope that with this holistic approach, the F2F will be part of a bigger policy and not just a symbolic decision on pesticides or antibiotics reduction. Von der Leyen also put two elements in the Green Deal: emissions and jobs. That’s very important, as we really need to create prosperity for the future.
Prosperity means that Europe needs to grow and we need not only to take policies against certain parts of the value chain. With the Green Deal, we should favour the prosperity in good harmony with the environment and in a fairer way. These are commitments that the private sector is already taking.
While the F2F strategy was previously thought to be non-legislative only, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides recently said it will include legislative actions too. What do you prefer, legislative or non-legislative actions?
We need a combination of the two. Look at the standardisation of information on food labels, for instance. The EU decided to leave it to member states and, in the end, all of them have created their own systems. However, now we are pledging for an EU-wide food labelling, also because the EU is a Single market – if a manufacturer has to comply with 15 or more different front of pack labelling, the Single market will not work.
I’m pretty sure both the Green Deal and the F2F will include also some legislation. In the end, it’s also a question of setting targets, having a transparent approach and methodology. We need to have some limits, not only advice.
Long ago, Nestlé backed the French Nutri-score. Do you think it will prevail in the end, becoming the EU-wide nutritional labelling?
A few years ago the food industry asked the Commission to consider and test an EU-wide system for food labelling. The French came up with the Nutri-score and we saw that the results of the first tests on the ground were well accepted by consumers.
So, we decided to back the system, not because we felt that it is perfect, but because the system was gaining consensus, also giving information to consumers and driving their choices towards more healthier products.
Of course, you can debate if the algorithm is done in a perfect way for each category of products. But now I see also from my brand managers the willingness to have a better score, for instance, passing from a C to a B in the Nutriscore. So the industry is tricked into improving the product and that’s something great.
What’s your take on the Nutrinform proposed by the Italians?
I’ve told the Italians already that instead of fighting Nutri-score and creating their own system, they should think about how to improve it by finding a way in the algorithm to recognise the healthy elements of the Mediterranean diet. This was my advice to Italians: fight the Nutri-score from inside, and see if the EU in the future can come up with even a more refined system.
In France, Nestlé joined a coalition of companies that asked for avoiding the confusion between use by/best before. In the context of the F2F, should the date marking be addressed as well?
Absolutely. We should avoid that the misinterpretation on date marking by consumers contributes to food waste. We need these actions from both Commission and Member State to really reduce and simplify the legislation in that sense.
We need to have clarity from the European Union on the fact that ‘best before’ should be used less, except in the case of very perishable food, and the ‘use by’ must be indicated. We are supporting the initiative ‘Too good to go’ in order to contribute to the objective of reducing by half the food waste by 2025. But we also need to work on consumer education, because sometimes people make confusion about that.
Last year, MEPs voted an amendment to CMO regulation to reserve meat-related terms and names “exclusively for edible parts of the animals”. Could it be a problem for the takeoff of the plant-based and meat alternatives sector?
We should think about consumers and putting them at the centre. Consumers want to make better choices in their diet and they want to have different kinds of products rather than having only meat or meat protein. And that’s good for their diet, as we know that obesity is also coming from overconsumption of meat-based foodstuff.
Let’s keep it simple. Of course, we should not mislead the consumer calling chicken what is not chicken. But the word ‘burger’ doesn’t imply a part of the animal, but rather preparation. The use of words like burgers or sausages should be allowed if I also specify that are veggie products.
Where should the new Circular economy action plan focus more on?
On infrastructure, which is critical because companies are already investing a huge amount of money for new research to find alternatives to current packaging. We have announced €2 billion investment ten days ago to invest in food-grade packaging
However, the missing point is infrastructure. In Italy, for instance, everything is in the hands of municipalities and they do whatever they like – they take all the waste and they just put it in the incinerator, if you’re lucky.