European public health associations (the European Heart Network “EHN”, the European Public Health Alliance “EPHA”) and consumers associations (the European Bureau of Consumer Unions “BEUC”) wrote december 19th, 2022, a letter to Frans Timmermans (Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal), and EC Commissioners Kyriakides (DG Health) and Wojciechowski (DG Agri) to express their concern about the revision of EU consumer information regulation.
EPHA brings together 89 public health organizations in 21 european countries; EHN, 28 national associations and foundations dedicated to cardiovascular diseases; and BEUC, 46 independent consumer associations.
In their letter, the associations highlight their concerns regarding a potential delay for this important legislation as well as the debate around front-of-pack nutritional labelling becoming increasingly polarised and less grounded in scientific evidence or public health concerns
Furthermore, the BEUC, EHN and EPHA consider it is vital that the future EU FOPNL fulfils certain criteria which respond to the needs of the consumer and which is proven to steer shoppers towards healthier choices. It should; be mandatory, use interpretive colour-codes, be based on uniform reference amounts (100 g or 100 ml), allow consumers to compare products according to their amounts of critical nutrients notably saturated fat, sugars and salt and; be seen as a complementary tool to consumer education and dietary recommendations.
Finally, the EU nutrition front-of-pack label must be based on robust and independent scientific evidence. Any FOPNL should be able to demonstrate, with independent scientific evidence, that consumers not only appreciate or pay attention to a certain label but that they can objectively understand it. In other words, they can use the label to correctly classify products according to their nutrient profile. The effects of labels on purchasing intentions should be included, where feasible, in real life supermarket trials and especially for consumers from lower socio-economic groups who are the most at risk of living with overweight or obesity.
The signatories of the letter highlight there is a significant body of independent scientific evidence which demonstrates that Front-of-Pack nutrition labels which use interpretive colour-codes are the most effective at helping consumers to understand and easily compare the nutritional value of food products, especially those in lower socio-economic groups. The recent Joint Research Centre update of their 2020 literature review concluded that ‘simpler, evaluative, colour-coded labels seem better suited in meeting consumers’ information needs in a busy shopping context’.
Nutri-Score checks absolutely all the boxe of the criteria proposed by EPHA, EHN and BEUC: it is a color-coded interpretative front-of-pack nutrition label. The calculation of its algorithm is based on uniform reference amounts (100 g or 100 ml). It allows to compare products according to their nutrients of concern (saturated fatty acids/sugar/salt). It is complementary to public health education and dietary recommendations. Finally, Nutri-Score is based on robust and solid scientific bases with more than 70 scientific studies, published by independent academic researchers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. These studies confirmed the validity of the nutritional profiling system that underpins the calculation of its algorithm and highlighted, in many countries, the effectiveness of its graphic format (five colours). The interest of Nutri-Score and its superiority over other nutritional labels has been demonstrated in terms of perception, simplicity of use, objective understanding, impact on food choices and on the nutritional quality of shopping baskets in real conditions, in different contexts : virtual supermarkets, experimental stores and in supermarkets in the real life. These studies have shown that Nutri-Score was particularly effective in high risk groups (disadvantaged populations, students, subjects suffering with chronic diseases).
The text of the letter and annexes are available at https://www.ehnheart.org/medias/news/2155:ehn,-beuc-and-epha-ask-for-a-timely-proposal-on-front-of-pack-nutritional-labelling.html