Food politics and industry opposition to regulation are global issues. Case in point — the latest kerkuffle out of France.
“After nearly four years of effort, France recently adopted a food-labelling system that will allow consumers to see and compare at a glance the nutritional value of packaged food products. The government approved the “NutriScore” label, and it was signed into law in October. But some of the biggest global agro-industrial conglomerates are refusing to adopt it.”
“The NutriScore has five colours with the goal of informing consumers on foods’ nutritional qualities and thus allowing them to compare between food. The selection of this label was based on numerous studies published in international peer-reviewed journals. This approach that led the EU office of the World Health Organisation to commend “France’s robust use of evidence to inform this decision”.”
“Despite the evidence, and in disregard of the positions of consumer associations who are asking for the NutriScore to be implemented, several agro-industrial lobbying groups have opposed the label. They resort to a simple strategy, shown to be successful in other sectors, such as tobacco: Unable to stop a political decision, they conjure up an alternative system – one potentially less damaging to their economic interests – by justifying its supposed advantages for the consumer.”
“Various studies compared this label with the NutriScore and it was shown to be less efficient. Indeed, the NutriScore provides only one indicator of colour for the overall nutritional quality of the food: the foods having the highest nutritional quality are labelled in green. The alternative label provides information for each nutrient – a food could be labelled in green for sugars, but other colours for salt or fats. This type of label can be more difficult to understand for consumers. To choose between two products – for example, a yogurt and a fruit purée – the consumer needs to quickly compare ten different pieces of information, instead of just two with the NutriScore.”
“With the modified label proposed by the “Big 6” and Alliance 7 group (of which Mars is a member), ratings are set based on the recommended portion – chosen by the manufacturer.”