News 24.02.2021

Further development of the Nutri-Score: Lobbying influence through the back door?

  • politics and law
  • Transparency and food safety

Seven European countries have formed a scientific, a technical and a steering committee to further develop the Nutri-Score. foodwatch welcomes that the food traffic light will be revised by scientists, but warns of lobbying influence of the food industry through the political steering committee. 

The “Nutri-Score” is designed to make it easier for consumers to recognise and compare the nutritional quality of products. The 5-Colour Nutrition label is gaining ground in Europe and has already been approved by France (2017) and Belgium (2018), Switzerland (2019), and Germany (2020). Spain, Netherlands and Luxembourg have officially announced their willingness to adopt it. These countries are now referred to as the “Countries officially engaged in Nutri-Score” (COEN).

In order to simplify the Europe-wide use of the Nutri-Score, the CEON have built three committees for facilitating the introduction of the Nutri-Score in further EU Member States and companies as well as for doing a joint revision of the Nutri-Score calculation basis. There will be a political steering committee consisting of representatives of the national ministries, a scientific committee that evaluates possible further developments of the Nutri-Score algorithm, and a technical committee responsible for the transnational technical support to retailers and food producers.

Scientific assessment over economic interests

Whilst foodwatch welcomes the international cooperation as an important step towards the Europeanization of the Nutri-Score, it warns that the steering committee is a potential backdoor for the interests of the food industry by lobbying the national ministries. The names of the scientists in the scientific committee have been announced, but the composition of the steering committee is not public so far. 

The political steering committee must not be the gateway for industry interests. It is imperative that the Nutri-Score remains a consumer-friendly nutrition label based on science and independent of any political or economic influence. We demand full transparency on all procedures and decisions taken.
Luise Molling Campaigner at foodwatch

Industry wants to water down the Nutri-Score

The food industry has a great interest in watering down the Nutri-Score's calculation basis in such a way that unbalanced foods scored better. Last year, foodwatch published demands from the food industry on the Nutri-Score algorithm . According to the food lobby it should be changed in such a way, that even some sugary drinks are given a green light and meat and sausage products are glossed over. 

foodwatch calls for mandatory Nutri-Score

The "Nutri-Score", which originates in France, includes not only the sugar, fat and salt content but also recommendable components such as dietary fibre and certain proteins in an overall assessment. The result is translated into a five-level colour scale, which is backed by the letters A-E. Rather balanced products get a dark green A or light green B, in the middle range there is a yellow C and rather unbalanced products like sweets or fatty snacks get an orange D or even a red E.

However, because a legal obligation at the national level alone is not possible under European law, labelling remains only voluntary. In Germany, manufacturers have been allowed to use the Nutri-Score since fall 2020. For the Nutri-Score to be fully effective, voluntary labelling is not enough. foodwatch is therefore calling for EU-wide mandatory front-of-pack labelling of food with the Nutri-Score! The EU Commission intends to propose a mandatory European nutrition logo for food in the fourth quarter of 2022.