Seven European consumers’ associations recently launched a European citizens’ initiative called “PRO-NUTRISCORE”. This initiative aims to make Front-of-Pack (FOP) nutritional labelling on food products in Europe mandatory.
Why is Front-of-Pack nutritional labelling important?
Food intake plays a major role in the prevalence of chronic diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. International studies identify the usage of FOP labelling as desirable to help consumers improve the nutritional quality of their food choices. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed the usage of FOP labelling as one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing the burden of chronic diseases.
Additionally, the usage of FOP nutritional labelling is also perceived as a tool which will promote food reformulation among the food sector. Healthier products would benefit from a better classification according to the FOP nutritional labelling, thus further promoting the improvement of the nutritional quality of food intake.
The Nutri-Score Model
The tables and figures on packaging of food products are far from being readable and easily comprehensible by consumers. It is important to translate this information into a simple, consumer friendly, and readable logo placed on the front of the product. This will help European consumers compare the nutritional value of different products.
Nutri-Score was conceived by a team of independent academic researchers. It consists of a graphical colored representation, which also uses letters to improve the readability of the label. Nutri-Score classifies the nutritional profile of a food product into five mutually exclusive categories.
This innovative algorithm classifies products between dark green (associated with the letter A) and red (associated with the letter E). This classification is based on nutritional criteria and is validated scientifically. Simply put, the computation of each product’s classification relies on a nutrient profiling system which takes into consideration negative elements (calories, sugars, saturated fatty-acids and sodium/salt) and positive elements (fibers, percentage of fruit and vegetables and proteins) of the nutritional contents of each product.
Several scientific studies published in international peer-reviewed scientific journals have shown Nutri-Score’s effectiveness and superiority compared to other similar logos.
The adoption of a European Front-of-Pack nutritional labelling system
Nutri-Score has been developed by the French Ministry of Health and defined as the national reference. More than one hundred and fifteen food manufacturers and retailers have followed suit and deployed (or committed to deploying) Nutri-Score on all their products. Furthermore, other Ministries of Health (i.e. Belgium and Spain) have published national recommendations towards adopting Nutri-Score. Nutri-Score also counts on the strong support of European consumers’ associations.
Lack of decisive action has been promoted by policy and regulatory authorities lying outside the health sector and strong opposition by several food manufacturing companies and retail sectors. As a result, several different FOP labelling systems are used at the national level without any type of standardization.
Evidence shows that the overload of different FOP labelling systems available in the market confuse consumers instead of improving their decision capacity. Therefore, a European and harmonized FOP labelling system should be implemented.
Call to action for all European citizens
Unfortunately, as it stands today, the implementation of Nutri-Score depends solely on the willingness of the food industry. In fact, due to European regulations (implemented a few years ago in line with the interests in mind of large multinationals), companies can refuse to play the game of nutritional transparency. European countries can’t make a particular FOP system mandatory.
Even though some companies have set an example and implemented Nutri-Score, others have not (and even continue to try to torpedo Nutri-Score at the European level).
In order to help European consumers have healthier and more informed lifestyles, a European citizens’ initiative was launched and registered by the European Commission. Several countries are pushing for Nutri-Score. It is time to push for new European regulations to fight for the interest of European consumers.
To do so, one million signatures from at least seven European countries must be gathered. It is necessary to mobilize a maximum of citizens to put pressure on the European Commission and to change existing regulations.
Sign the petition “Pronutriscore” on the official site of the European Commission: www.pronutriscore.org.