The government will approve Nutriscore before the end of the year, the controversial food front labeling system that is already in place in some countries, such as France or Germany, but which has not quite convinced some manufacturers and distributors in Spain. This has been confirmed by sources from the Ministry of Consumption, which have an effect on the fact that this system “It will not be mandatory, but it will serve to encourage companies to improve information nutritional status of food “.
Of this system. which will also be used as a basis for restricting the advertising of less healthy foods, only olive oil will be excluded, but not from other sectors that had also demanded it, such as cheese or ham.
Nutriscore is a front labeling system (more visible than the back) that simplifies the nutritional information of the product. Through an algorithm, foods are classified by color, ranging from green (less amount of fat, sugar, and salt) to red (more amount of these components).
The system classifies products of the same category. That is, a color is given to the different brands of breakfast cereals or pastries. For example, sugar-free cookies will score better than sugar-free cookies.
The system is controversial and does not convince all manufacturers, who consider that healthy foods are sometimes penalized. Others think that it is not a perfect tool, because it does not qualify, for example, the degree of processing of food. It does not even convince all EU countries. France and Germany have already applied it, but there are seven countries, including Italy, that are opposed.
From the Ministry, they remember that “it simplifies the information, but it does not say whether a product is good or bad. It is just one more tool to control obesity “. They criticize that there are companies that refuse to implement it (it is not mandatory) for “economic interests”, as it could have an impact on their sales. If the consumer, for example, is going to buy some cookies, it is assumed that he will choose those that have a better score at the traffic light.
Consumption remembers that 36% of Spanish food and beverage exports are destined for countries where Nutriscore has already been implemented. They argue that in these markets the consumer is already used to purchasing products with this labeling system and will be suspicious of those who do not have it. “Spanish products that do not have it will thus compete under unfavorable conditions in the markets where Nutriscore is implanted.”
Another controversial issue is the entry in this classification of foods linked to the Mediterranean diet such as olive oil or Iberian ham, for example. Consumption, in fact, has asked to remove olive oil from the system, as the sector demanded. It considers that this evaluation could harm its commercialization since the traffic light “does not reflect the nutritional benefits” of liquid gold.
Consumption does not foresee making more exceptions with other products such as ham or cheese. These sectors had also asked to leave the system. The Ministry recalls that “any sector can exclude itself from it” since it is not mandatory at the moment. The powers to do so are held by the European Commission.