HomelabelsCodex Alimentarius, the NutriScore and the WHO guidelines

Codex Alimentarius, the NutriScore and the WHO guidelines

The debate on NutriScore also continues at Codex Alimentarius where the World Health Organization, WHO, reaffirms its position in favor of this approach. In contrast to that which Ferrero and Coldiretti imposed, as we have seen, on the Italian government. (1)

The European consumer organization Foodwatch, meanwhile, spreads five-color flags in front of the headquarters of Food Drink Europe (see cover image). The summary nutrition labeling on the Front-of-Pack (FOP) can't wait any longer.

Codex Alimentarius Commission for Food Labeling (CCFL)

CCFL - There Codex Alimentarius Commission for Food Labeling - is organizing its 46th meeting session in these days. For once in videoconference, instead of in Ottawa (Canada) according to tradition. And it is precisely to the work of this Commission that we owe the evolution of the FAO and WHO Member State regulations on consumer information. (2)

The Commissions of the Codex Alimentarius they express, in theory, the widest democratic participation in the development of food law. Taking into account the possibility, at least theoretical, of intervention by the 194 WHO members. But theoretical democracy and governance, in the phase of forming international rules, give way to lobby industrial.

CCFL, government delegations e governance

Big food - in addition to influencing or corrupting scientific research on nutrition and obstructing related policies in the WHO (3,4) - participates in the meetings of the Codex Alimentarius:

- which stakeholder (interested social party), like other categories (eg consumers, farmers, distributors), through their respective representatives. But also

- within the government delegations themselves, where the lobbyists of Big food they participate as 'experts'. In other words, citizens are represented by industries.

The Italian delegation  to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for Food Labeling (CCFL), for example, sees Paolo Mascarino (Ferrero, V. President of Federalimentare with responsibility for nutrition, consumer information and nutritional education) and Luca Ragaglini (deputy director of Unione Italiana Food, where Ferrero is on the podium). Alongside the officials of MiPAAF, MiSE and the Ministry of Health. In grotesque violation of WHO recommendations on nutrition policies and conflicts of interest. (11)

CCFL, FOP nutrition labeling

FOP nutrition labeling, under item 6 of the agenda of the 46th session of the CCFL, is the center of attention. At the meetings 21-22.9.21 of the working group and following the best practices A definition has been developed, to be submitted to the plenary assembly.

'Front-of-pack nutrition labeling (FOPNL) is a form of supplementary nutrition information that presents simplified, nutrition information on the front-of-pack of pre-packaged foods.

It can include symbols / graphics, text or a combination thereof that provide information on the overall nutritional value of the food and / or on nutrients included in the FOPNL. This definition excludes nutrition and health claims'.

Topics under discussion, the ABC

I dettagli they are essential so that nutrition information systems on the label front can be widely disseminated and thus contribute to public health goals. The ABC:

A) mandatory. First of all, the possibility - perhaps even the recommendation, for Member States - of requiring operators to adopt the FOLP should be clarified (Front-of-pack nutrition labeling), (one)

B) exclusions. it is then necessary to assess whether certain categories of products can be exempted. Food supplements (since they are essentially devoid of nutritional functions), foods intended for specific nutritional purposes and formulas for infants (as they are subject to specific requirements). Perhaps even mono-ingredient foods (eg flours, oils, sugar. Proposal from Russia). The real catch would be to exclude small packages, for the benefit of junk food single-portion and packaging waste,

C) governance. Governments and public bodies in charge of public health must be the protagonists of this initiative. Without making use of 'collaboration', but rather only the 'consultation' of the social partners concerned.

WHO, position on FOP nutrition labeling

WHOWorld Health Organization, reiterated its position on FOP nutrition labeling in a specific press release. (6) To clarify Urbi et orbi, once again, what has already been set out with crystalline clarity in the document 'Guiding principles and framework manual for front-of-pack labeling for promoting healthy diet'. (7)

WHO consider the front-of-pack nutrition labeling (FOPL), as a form of supplemental nutrition information, as an important policy tool to promote healthy diets. This makes it easier for consumers to understand the nutritional properties of foods and to choose the healthiest ones. And it drives the reformulation of the products of Big food, however necessary and urgent it is worth adding (8,9).

Nutritional information on the front of the label, WHO guidelines

The WHO guidelines on front-of-pack nutrition labeling (FOPL) refer to five key principles:

1) consistency. the FOPL system must be aligned with national public health and nutrition policies and food law, as well as with WHO guidelines and Codex standards,

2) uniqueness. A single system should be developed to improve the impact of the FOPL system,

3) complementarity. Mandatory nutrition claims on food labels are a prerequisite of FOPL systems,

4) quality. A monitoring and review process should be developed to encourage continuous improvement of the system,

5) accessibility. The objectives, scope and principles of the FOPL system must be transparent and easy to access. (7)

Nutri Score and other systems, which one to choose?

The World Health Organization recalls how different FOP nutrition information schemes have already been developed by the authorities of different countries. Give her warning labels in Central-South America (Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico) al 5-star rating in Australia, the keyhole system in the Scandinavian countries. As well as in England and Israel.

In the European Union the system is becoming established NutriScore, which started in the Mediterranean and received the consent of Spanish consumers themselves. As well as the French, Portuguese, Belgians, Dutch and Germans. E of IARC (International Agency for the Research on Cancer). (10) WHO encourages Member States and research institutes to continue analyzing data to better understand the impact of different schemes on nutrition and health.

Provisional conclusions

The system NutriScore the way to go appears today 'in Europe and beyond', as suggested among other things by the International Agency for Research against Cancer following a review of the available scientific literature.

Italy is once again a victim of the interference of the lobby industrialists and Coldiretti in politics. (11) And public health is at stake on this front, in terms of preventing serious and chronic diseases. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, who pays them?

Dario Dongo

Footnotes to the story

(1) Dario Dongo. NutriScore, Ferrero and Coldiretti against everyone. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.7.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/nutriscore-ferrero-e-coldiretti-contro-tutti

(2) National regulations aligned with Codex standards are recognized as legitimate in the WTO (thanks to the WTO-SPS agreement, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures), with respect to possible obstructions to the free circulation of goods between the member states. The implementation of the standards adopted by the Codex Commissions is therefore increasingly widespread and timely

(3) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Conflicts of interest in scientific research. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 26.9.20/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/conflitti-d-interesse-nella-ricerca-scientifica

(4) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo. Nutrition and health, this is how Big Food stands in the way of the WHO. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.9.20/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/nutrizione-e-salute-ecco-come-big-food-ostacola-l-oms

(5) If the Codex standard provides for the possibility for Member States to impose the Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labeling (FOLP), it will be excluded a priori the hypothesis that such measures could be contested by other States with which they have free trade agreements. As has already happened in Mexico. V. Dario Dongo. NAFTA, CETA and health. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 25.3.18/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/nafta-ceta-e-salute

(6) WHO (World Health Organization). State of play of WHO guidance on Front-of-the-Pack labeling. Press releases. 27.9.21, https://www.who.int/news/item/27-09-2021-state-of-play-of-who-guidance-on-front-of-the-pack-labelling

(7) WHO (2019). Guiding principles and framework manual for front-of-pack labeling for promoting healthy dietshttps://www.who.int/publications/m/item/guidingprinciples-labelling-promoting-healthydiet

(8) Martha Strinati. Baby food, 68% is junk food. European research. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/alimenti-per-bambini-il-68-è-junk-food-ricerca-europea

(9) Martha Strinati. From Nestlé to Ferrero. Almost all baby food is harmful. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.9.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/da-nestlé-a-ferrero-quasi-tutti-gli-alimenti-per-bambini-sono-nocivi_1

(10) Dario Dongo. NutriScore, full marks from IARC and citizens of Spain. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.9.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/nutriscore-pieni-voti-della-iarc-e-dei-cittadini-in-spagna

(11) WHO Executive Board, 142. (2018). Safeguarding against possible conflicts of interest in nutrition programs: draft approach for the prevention and management of conflicts of interest in the policy development and implementation of nutrition programs at country level: report by the Director-General. World Health Organisation. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/274165

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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