Brussels, September 29, 2021 - The consumer organisation foodwatch has called on the food industry confederation FoodDrinkEurope to stop fighting a mandatory traffic light label. In a colourful protest action in front of the FoodDrinkEurope secretariat in Brussels, foodwatch told the lobby organisation to take responsibility for the health of consumers by supporting the Nutri-Score instead of lobbying against it. Scientists, medical societies, doctors and consumer groups have all been calling for a mandatory, colour-coded nutrition label at European level for a long time.
“The food industry has prevented effective political measures for a healthy nutrition for much too long. If FoodDrinkEurope really wants to contribute to healthier living like it claims in its mission statement, it must show its colours and support the Nutri-Score! The European Commission needs to listen to scientists and doctors and urgently make the Nutri-Score mandatory throughout Europe”, said Sarah Häuser of foodwatch.
While claiming in its mission statement “to promote (…) policies that enable the European food and drink industry to make products that (…) contribute to (…) healthier living”, FoodDrinkEurope has worked for over a decade against the mandatory introduction of a traffic light label that would benefit the health of millions of European consumers, foodwatch criticised. In a recent response to a consultation by the European Commission, FoodDrinkEurope positioned itself in favour of purely voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labels. It also asked that “portion-based approaches” are used and favoured non-colour-coded labels like the Australian Health Star Rating. These demands are all in contrast to the principles of Nutri-Score, a nutrition label that has shown its superiority in numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies and helps consumers make healthier purchasing decisions through clear colour-coding. In a recent report, WHO’s International Agency for the Research of Cancer has called for the urgent adoption of Nutri-Score in the European Union to help consumers lower their risk of developing nutrition-related diseases, including cancer.
The activities of FoodDrinkEurope against a consumer friendly nutrition label date back to the 2000s, when the industry association (then-called CIAA) fought against mandatory nutritional information and companies invested up to one billion euro in the fight against a traffic light label at the European level. In 2010, a vote on the introduction of a mandatory traffic light label failed in the European Parliament due to immense lobby pressure.
The governments of Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have introduced Nutri-Score. However, because a legal obligation at national level alone is not possible under European law, the label remains voluntary. The European Commission intends to propose a mandatory, harmonised, front-of-pack nutritional label by the end of 2022. In a recent vote on the Farm to Fork report, the AGRI and ENVI committees in the European Parliament clearly supported a mandatory, harmonised front of pack nutritional label.