The European Commission will delay plans to adopt Europe-wide harmonized nutrition labeling until March 2023, according to the Italian representation of the European Union.
The European Union’s executive body is also unlikely to recommend just one existing label, a commission spokesman said.
The different options that the commission will propose will be based on existing formats already developed in the European Union, such as Nutri-Score, Nutrinform Battery or the Keyhole.
Instead, the Commission will submit a new proposal for comprehensive nutrition labeling of foods in Europe by the end of the year and take a final decision by the end of the second quarter of 2023.
The announcement came after Nutri-Score, a traffic light-style front-of-package (FOPL) label widely seen as the frontrunner, came under fire from food industry groups and Italian politicians. at a panel discussion on the science of nutrition held at the European Parliament.
See also:Nutri-Score Algorithm Update Improves Olive Oil Scores
Stefano Verrecchia, Italy’s ambassador to the EU, said the Nutri-Score ignores national food traditions and “artificially” classified certain foods as healthy or unhealthy.
However, a European Commission spokesperson told Food Navigator that the food labeling proposal is “should be adopted in the coming months.
“The commission is still assessing the results of the past impact assessment and the consultations it held with member states and stakeholders,” the source added. “No decision has yet been made on exactly how sustainable food labeling will be framed and regulated.
However, the spokesperson suggested that none of the front-end schemes currently under consideration would be adopted, with elements of each incorporated into a completely separate FOPL.
“The different options that the commission will propose will be based on already existing formats already developed in the European Union, such as Nutri-Score (France), Nutrinform Battery (Italy) or the Keyhole (Sweden),” the source said.
Since its voluntary introduction in 2017, Nutri-Score has become a polarizing topic in the 27-member bloc. France and Belgium have adopted the voluntary use of FOPL, with Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg announcing the future implementation of FOPL.
Its supporters, which include a coalition of 300 European scientists and healthcare professionals, believe Nutri-Score is the only FOPL proven to help consumers make healthy choices.
However, Italy has spearheaded efforts to derail Nutri-Score adoption, both nationally and at European level.
Politicians, farm unions and other food industry lobbyists say low Nutri-Score ratings for olive oil and traditional cheese and meat products will hurt farmers. However, a survey of French consumers revealed that Nutri-Score ratings did not penalize traditional food products.
Either way, Italian antitrust authorities banned Nutri-Score ratings on certain products in August.
The previous month, the county’s market watchdog refused to approve a new nationwide food rating mobile app until it reduced the influence of Nutri-Score ratings on its algorithm.
Serge Herberg, professor of nutrition at the Sorbonne Paris Nord University Faculty of Medicine and co-creator of Nutri-Score, lamented the commission’s recent announcement.
He did not hold back his criticism of what he sees as a concerted effort by the food industry to sabotage the nutrition labeling debate in comments to Food Navigator.
“[The nutrition science roundtable debate contained] all the usual fake news spread against Nutri-Score, especially the cheese and charcuterie sectors and their representatives and lobbies,” he said.
“There is a lot of misinformation trying without any scientific basis to discredit Nutri-Score with outright denial of science,” Hercbeg added.
“If the European Commission promotes science and public health, Nutri-Score should be chosen,” Hercberg concluded. “Otherwise, considering that the Nutri-Score is too ‘polarizing”, we can consider that the European Commission has yielded to the agri-food lobbies.