HomelabelsNutriScore, a report by 320 scientists to urge the European Commission

NutriScore, a report by 320 scientists to urge the European Commission

The European Group of Scientists and Health Professionals in Support of NutriScore (GESHPSN) publishes a scientific report to urge the European Commission to overcome the impasse induced by LOBBY and protect the public health of citizens, approving as soon as possible the NutriScore as the single European system of FOPNL (Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labeling). (1)

NutriScore, the commitments made by the European Commission

The European Commission, within the strategy 'Farm to fork' (2021), has undertaken to propose by 2023 a logo with summary nutritional information on the front of the labels of all foods in the EU. (2) Following that announcement, the report recalls, le LOBBY di Big food have worked hard to prevent the NutriScore from being chosen as the sole reference logo in the EU, i.e. to delay its mandatory application. Or again, to propose an alternative logo such as the Nutri-(dis)Inform battery, completely devoid of application experience and scientific basis, as well as clearly useless for consumers and public health (3,4).

Le LOBBY anti-NutriScore they are supported by large industries that continue to outsource the costs of foods with poor nutrient profiles to public health. Ferrero at the forefront, but also Lactalis, Coca-Cola, Mars, Mondelez, Kraft, etc. With the instrumental support of some agricultural confederations, such as Coldiretti in Italy and COPA-COGECA at EU level. These actions of LOBBY have been and still are conveyed at the level of European structures by various political parties and by politicians close to them, as well as by the Italian government which continues to exploit the NutriScore as a 'conspiracy' of Europe against the products Made in Italy:.

The pressure of LOBBY

Le fake news propalate from LOBBY, also through ministers such as the Italian Francesco Lollobrigida, (5) have been widely taken up since mainstream media to alter the meaning of an instrument designed to protect public health and consumers. And the political pressure has been so effective as to paralyze the European Commission, which in fact has not kept the commitments it has made to adopt the NutriScore within the current legislature (expiring in spring 2024).

The solid scientific arguments, the adoption by large Member States such as Germany, France and Spain, the expression of a strong social will in favor of the NutriScore (by consumer associations, doctors and health professionals, etc.) were not enough. To the point that some representatives of the Commission have confessed the difficulty of adopting the NutriScore as a mandatory nutritional logo in the EU as it is too 'polarizing'.

Public health vs. junk food

There is no scientific argument nor public health reason justifying theimpasse of the European Commission. Simply, the Nutri-Score is not compatible with the business-as-usual of large industries that have no intention of correcting the recipes and nutritional profiles of obesogenic products, nor of giving up their marketing aggressive.

Political responsibility of the Commission led by Ursula Von der Leyen is even more serious when one considers the alarming data from WHO Europe on the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children in the Old Continent. (6) A condemnation of the health and well-being of present and future generations, in defiance of the commitments undertaken in the UN 2030 agenda. #SDG3, Ensure Health and Well-being.

NutriScore, a report signed by 320 scientists

320 scientists and professionals health professionals working in the fields of nutrition, obesity, public health, preventive medicine, endocrinology, cancer, cardiology, paediatrics, psychology, European law and marketing society – gathered in the context of the 'Group of European scientists and health professionals who support NutriScore' – have therefore mobilized to make their voices heard in the ongoing debate with a substantial report.

The relationship of 61 pages, with 105 bibliographic references, published on March 11, 2023, has a very clear title: 'Why should the European Commission choose the Nutri-Score nutrition logo – a public health tool based on rigorous scientific evidence – as a harmonized and mandatory nutrition logo for Europe'. And here's why.

1) Scientific evidence

Over a hundred studies scientific studies conducted in about twenty countries and published in international journals subject to peer-review have demonstrated, in the last decade:

  • the validity of the algorithm used to calculate the Nutri-Score, also on the basis of large cohort studies involving more than 500.000 subjects with follow-up long-term,
  • the greater effectiveness of NutriScore, compared to other forms of FOPNL, in helping consumers direct their choices towards foods of better nutritional quality and therefore more favorable to health. Thanks to the data collected in virtual supermarkets, experimental shops and real supermarkets).

2) An agile algorithm

Recent algorithm updates of Nutri-Score by a scientific committee made up of independent European experts has made it possible to correct some of its 'limitations' identified during its implementation. And thus to further improve its consistency with current public health nutritional recommendations (7,8).

3) The support of European research

The report of Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission, published in September 2022, clearly concludes that consumers, including those on low incomes, prefer simple, colorful evaluation logos (such as Nutri-Score) over more complex, non-evaluative monochromatic logos (such as Nutrinform). (9)

4) The clear outcome of the public consultation

The results of the public consultation launched by the EC between December 2021 and March 2022 have shown that the majority of consumer and NGO organisations, citizens, research and educational institutions and public health authorities are largely in favor of a nutrition logo providing information graded on the overall nutritional quality of foods (which is fully in line with the characteristics of the Nutri-Score).

5) The support of scientists and consumers

In support of adoption Many European scientific and consumer associations have expressed their opinion on the NutriScore, the report recalls. These include the European Public Health Association (EUPHA extension), the European Group on Childhood Obesity (ECOG), lo European Heart Network (EHN), the European Academy of Pediatrics, theUnited European Gastroenterology, and many consumer associations, including the European Consumers' Union (BEUC), which brings together 46 independent consumer organizations from 32 European countries, as well as NGOs such as FoodWatch (present in various European countries).

6) The adoption of NutriScore in 7 countries

NutriScore it has already been adopted and implemented in 7 European countries (France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland). Demonstrating the feasibility of its diffusion, the strong support of consumers who make extensive use of it and the impact on the sales of food products in supermarkets in line with its objectives.

The clarifications that dismantle the instrumental criticisms

The EFSA and ECDC's One Health report also provides scientific answers to 7 questions that may legitimately be raised on NutriScore, but are often misused and overused by LOBBY to try to discredit Nutri-Score. Namely because the algorithm:

– does not penalize ultra-processed foods,
– is calculated on 100g/100ml and not per portion,
– does not consider all the nutritional values ​​and food components of potential interest,
– does not replace general recommendations on nutrition and public health,
– does not penalize traditional and local foods, such as DOP and IGP, (10)
– is not a threat to the Mediterranean diet, (11)
– because the NutrInform battery is a meaningless alternative.

Europe protects the population

This report comprehensive on NutriScore – written and endorsed by a large number of scientists and academic health professionals – aims to remind European authorities that their decision to implement a mandatory nutrition logo for Europe must be based on science and public health . Without giving in to the pressures of LOBBY who defend economic interests in the opposite direction.

For this reason, the authors of the report (and the support committee composed of international experts working in this field) call on the Commission to propose legislation for the adoption of mandatory EU-wide interpretive nutrition labeling based on science as soon as possible , as in the case of the Nutri-Score.

A crucial element of European health policies

It's clear that the adoption of the Nutri-Score in Europe will help European consumers move towards more nutritionally favorable food choices and reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes , hypertension, tumours, which are public health problems with a significant human, social and economic cost throughout Europe.

Even if the affixing is mandatory of a nutritional logo such as the Nutri-Score on the front of all food labels will not by itself be enough to solve all problems related to nutrition, it will help to increase awareness of food choices and improve the nutritional status of the population (as has been scientifically proven by numerous studies). The Nutri-Score is based on solid scientific evidence and can be used to develop other measures, such as food restrictions marketing of junk food, in the context of an effective nutrition policy for public health.

In practice, this simple measure is important both to help consumers make healthier food choices when buying and to stimulate the industry to improve the nutrient profiles of foods.

Marta Strinati and Dario Dongo 

Footnotes

(1) EU scientists & health professionals for Nutri-Score. 'Why the European Commission must choose the Nutri-Score nutrition label – a public health tool based in rigorous scientific evidence – as the harmonized mandatory nutrition label for Europe'. 11.5.23. https://nutriscore-europe.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/NS_rapport-EU-V10_230202.pdf 
(2) Dario Dongo. Farm to Fork, Nutri-Score and product reformulation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 25.10.21
(3) Dario Dongo. NutrInform Battery, the battery operated label. An Italian shame. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 10.11.20
(4) Dario Dongo. NutriScore and Nutriform, Professor Serge Hercberg clarifies. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 20.4.23
(5) Dario Dongo. NutriScore, Professor Serge Hercberg corrects the Italian minister's fake news. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.3.23
(6) Sabrina Bergamini, Dario Dongo. Obesity, childhood obesity and marketing. WHO Europe 2022 report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.6.22
(7) Dario Dongo. NutriScore, evolution of the algorithm on a scientific basis. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.8.22
(8) Dario Dongo. NutriScore, Algorithm Update for Beverages. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 25.4.23
(9) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. European Commission, research confirms NutriScore's approach. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.9.22
(10) Dario Dongo. NutriScore, full marks to local products. And the quality of food improves. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.4.23
(11) Italian scientific study confirms the effectiveness of NutriScore. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 7.1.23

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".

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