France may opt out of supporting Nutri Score.

According to the Italian Minister of Agriculture, the French government is considering the possibility of not supporting the French system for the nutrition labelling of products with the Nutri Score as a new EU-wide food labelling scheme.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the Nutri Score on the sidelines of the signing ceremony of the Quirinal Treaty, which aims to strengthen cooperation between Paris and Rome in key EU policies.

The choice of which type of nutrition labelling should be mandatory at European Union level has driven a wedge between Italy and France, with the ongoing battle between the Nutri Score system developed and supported by France and the Italian counter-proposal called Nutrinform battery.

“We’ll talk about it in more detail in the coming days, but it seems pretty clear that even France is backing away from this unhealthy idea of coloring food and labelling it as good or bad without any real scientific method”  – said Italian Minister of Agriculture Stefano Patuanelli. The minister’s entourage confirmed that in a telephone conversation with Patuanelli  Draghi suggested that the French government may decide not to support Nutri Score. “I think it’s really important, perhaps today we still underestimate the importance of avoiding the risk that the Nutri Score will become a labelling system”  – said Patuanelli.

The French side has not commented on this information. The French Minister of Agriculture Julien Denormandie on the other hand, has recently opened up to a review of the Nutri Score methodology because it is based on quantitative indicators resulting in classifications that are not necessarily consistent with eating habits. “The French state will not introduce a mandatory Nutri Score system until the EU does so”- he said during a hearing before the French Parliament’s Committee on Economic Affairs.

In the context of the EU’s flagship food policy, the “Farm to Fork” (F2F), the European Commission is expected to present a proposal for the adoption of a harmonized food labelling system throughout the Community, which also takes into account nutritional aspects. Currently, the labeling system that is likely to be endorsed by the Commission is the Nutri Score which converts the nutritional value of products into a code consisting of five letters, from A to E, each in a different colour, from green to red.

However, Italy is leading the initiative to oppose the Nutri Score claiming that the system depreciates some of the basic products of the Mediterranean diet. “We are struggling with a huge threat to all our agri-food production” – said Patuanelli.

Italians claim that the Nutri Score is not objective in relation to the Mediterranean diet because it attributes a low score to foods with a high energy content, saturated fats, a large amount of sugar or salt.

The main complaint of the Italian side is that extra virgin olive oil, an essential product in the Mediterranean diet, is classified with the letter D and the colour orange. For this reason the Italian Government proposed to the Commission another programme called NutrInform based on the “battery power” symbol that shows the consumer the nutritional composition in relation to his daily needs as well as the correct style of nutrition.

During a visit to Spain, an experienced Italian MEP Paolo De Castro met with the Spanish Agriculture Minister Luis Planas to discuss how to “crack down on Nutri Score, the enemy of the Mediterranean diet”. The Nutri Score has recently been criticized by Spanish manufacturers, although the system was originally supported by the Madrid government. Two Soanish MEPs Gabriel Mato and Juan Ignacio Zoido have written to the Commission to warn of the potential damage caused by Nutri Score to the world-famous Iberico ham.


Published in