The fight against the supremacy of France’s Nutri-Score system as the EU-wide nutrition food label has kicked up a notch with the addition of a new non-paper backed by at least seven member states.
The ‘any other business’ request, due to be discussed at the upcoming AGRIFISH EU Council on Monday (21 September), was submitted by the Italian and the Czech delegations on behalf of the Cyprus, Greek, Hungarian, Latvian and Romanian delegations.
The non-paper is intended as a contribution of this coalition of countries to the discussion on the harmonised Front-of-Pack nutrition labelling at the EU level, which is among the main objectives of the Union’s pivotal food policy, the Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F).
Although the document stops short of mentioning the French Nutri-score system by name, it challenges key concepts of the proposed system.
Nutri-score converts the nutritional value of products into a code consisting of five letters, from A to E, each with its own colour.
In open defiance of the French Nutri-score, Italy’s government has offered the Commission another proposal for an EU-wide nutritional food label scheme, called Nutrinform.
This is based on a “battery-powered” symbol which shows the consumer the nutritional contribution in relation to their daily needs, as well as the correct dietary style.
The French Nutri-score system has already been adopted by multiple countries, including Belgium, Spain and, most recently, Germany, and has a head start over the battery system as for a long time it was the only nutritional label system tested in supermarkets.
But the non-paper takes a clear opposing stance to this, saying that the delegations believe that “already established market-led solutions should not run ahead of the EU Commission, governments and regulatory authorities in determining decisions that have major implications on public health, cultural values and the internal market”.
In a further attack, it adds that the EU-harmonised front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FOPNL) system “should not provide an overall evaluation of food, but factual information on the individual nutrients contained in the product,” the paper reads.
“An EU-harmonised FOPNL should consider foods as part of the wider context of the daily requirements of a healthy diet, encouraging variation, moderation and the correct balance of all food groups”.
It also stressed that such a system should “take into account the specificities of each member state’s food culture, typical diet and national nutritional guidelines.”
Specifically, it emphasised that a new FOPNL scheme should exempt products with protected origin labels, such as products with geographical indications, and also single-ingredient products, of which it gives the examples of olive oil, from the requirement of using it.
The non-paper added that it is open to subscription by other member states.
These are the latest voices to join the ranks of discontent with the proposed system after EU farmers lobby COPA-COGECA announced their position on the thorny issue earlier this month.
Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of COPA-COGECA, said that his organisation backs Italy’s bid against any colour-coded nutritional labels, such as the Nutri-score.
“I talked to the Italian minister Teresa Bellanova, we give her our full support,” Pesonen told Italian news agency Ansa after an informal Agriculture Council in Koblenz, Germany.
Front of pack labelling takes a central role in the priorities of the German presidency, which is pushing to identify the key aspects of a possible EU harmonized FOPNL scheme in order to reach a conclusion.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]