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Colour coded Nutri-score becomes France’s official nutrition label

This article is powered by EU Food Law

The colour coded Nutri-score became France’s official nutrition label on 31 October but its use is voluntary not mandatory.

French recognition of the Nutri-score label came a week after Paris received the go ahead from the European Commission. France had to notify the scheme under the food information to consumers regulation (FIC – 1169/2011), which allows national labels, provided that they do not discriminate against products from other Member States or otherwise act as a trade barrier.

Manufacturers and retailers do not have to use the front-of-pack Nutri-score label, as it is voluntary, but it is the only labelling scheme to have official government recognition through a 31 October decree signed by Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, Food and Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert and Secretary of State for Economics and Finances Benjamin Griveaux.

Official backing for the Nutri-score follows a process launched in January 2016 that compared four different schemes in real conditions in 60 stores – the Nutri-score developed by the Paris XIII university, an industry scheme Nutri Repere, a retailer label SENS and the UK’s traffic light labelling system introduced in 2012.

Nutriscore - French nutrition label.  The Nutri-score selected uses five colours ranging from dark green to dark orange – but significantly no red – to grade foods according to their overall nutritional quality. Within the colour coded box there are also letters ranging from A for the “best nutritional quality” to E for the “least good nutritional quality.”

Auchan, Leclerc, Intermarché, Danone and McCain have already signed up to the scheme, but other retailers and manufacturers are expected to follow and register via a dedicated website.

“Nutri-score is a valuable prevention tool,” commented Buzyn, adding that “an unbalanced diet and overweight are in fact two major risk factors for cancer and stroke.”

But Dirk Jacob, FoodDrinkEurope Deputy Director General, tweeted: “FR law on #NutriScore nutrition label signed today. Too bad again a national approach rather than EU.”

French consumer organisation UFC-Que Choisir warned against companies using “diversionary tactics” to push alternative schemes. The consumer group accused burger chains McDonald’s and Quick of using an “obsolete” label and Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Mars, Mondelez, PepsiCo and Unilever of pushing a “particularly complicated scheme” that was “based on unrealistic portion sizes” in parallel, which “clearly aims to confuse consumers and thwart the uptake of 'Nutriscore'.”


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