EUROPE – A coalition of stakeholders from across the spectrum are calling for adoption of Nutri-Score as a mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling system across the European Union (EU).

Led by BEUC, the umbrella group of consumer organization in Brussels which counts of 45 independent national consumer organisations from 32 European countries, nearly 40 stakeholders across the industry have sent a joint letter to the EU Commission requesting for a legislative proposal to introduce the Nutri-Score EU-wide.

The coalition includes consumer organizations, academics, Members of European Parliament and food industry players.

Nutri-Score in a food package

A Nutri-Score is a 5-color logo on the front of the packaging.

The Nutri-Score classifies foods and beverages according to their nutritional profile by using a colour-based system with a scale ranging from healthier choices (A) to less healthier choices (E). Through a letter and a color, the scheme informs consumers about the nutritional quality of a product.

The stakeholders argue that adoption of the colour-coded front-of-pack nutritional label is instrumental to supporting consumers in making healthier food choices.

“We believe that food plays an important part in maintaining a healthy society, and that we must therefore empower citizens throughout the EU to adopt balanced eating and drinking habits by providing clear nutritional information,” the stakeholders said in the joint letter.

With one in two European adults overweight or obese – increasing the likelihood of heart disease, diabetes and cancer – the coalition insists that stronger action is clearly required to help stem the tide of this public health crisis.

“As rates of overweight and obesity remain worryingly high in the EU, it is essential we better equip consumers with tools such as the Nutri-Score to help them to compare products and make healthier choices in the supermarket,”comments Monique Goyens, Director General of The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).

Nutritional labelling has been identified by both national governments and international health experts as one of the key policy tools which can be used to support consumers to make informed healthier food choices at-a-glance.

Markedly, since France officially endorsed the scheme in 2017, Belgium, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland have now recognised the effectiveness of Nutri-Score and have also recommended it in their territories.

Nevertheless, as current EU food law only permits any such schemes to be voluntary, the collation observed that full potential of the label to aid consumers remains unfulfilled.

According to research conducted in several countries, Nutri-Score is currently the best-performing scheme as it both aids consumers to compare the nutritional quality of foods across a range of products and to make healthier choices in the supermarket.

“And the results are concrete: it really makes consumers’ shopping baskets healthier! This is why we need Nutri-Score on all food in the EU,” Ivo Mechels, CEO Euroconsumers affirms.

The move comes as the EU Commission readies to publish its Farm to Fork Strategy, which aims to make the food system sustainable and promote healthy food for all.

The coalition expects the EU executive to propose an EU-wide front-of-pack nutritional label.

Thomas Gauthier-Lafaye, Europe Public Affairs Director, Danone said: “No system is perfect, but we see Nutri-Score as the best scheme today for people to compare products’ nutritional quality at a glance, also within a category.

“We therefore support the call to make this color-coded and front-of pack nutritional label mandatory across the EU.”

Bart Vandewaetere, Head of Corporate Communications and Government Relations for Nestlé Zone EMENA added “We started our reformulation journey 20 years ago to make our products healthier.

“Nutri-Score now offers a clear standard that helps move even faster. For example, 16% of our breakfast cereals in France scored ‘A’ or ‘B’ in 2019. Our ambition is that more than 50% of our breakfast cereals in France are ‘A’ or ‘B’ by end of 2021.”