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Labels based on nutritional profiles: the global map

GDA is the most common system. Among black Chilean octagons and English traffic lights consumer’s confusion increases

“It is necessary to provide citizens a labelling system on a strong scientific basis which takes into account the food as a whole and with univocal rules for the unique market”. That is what Luigi Scordamaglia, president of Federalimentare, said in the occasion of an important symposium, taken place few days ago in the European Parliament headquarter, which was dedicated to the food labelling based on “nutritional profiles” officially introduced by the European Commission in 2006. The Commission was supposed to introduce an application regulation (see 1st February 2018 EFA News) but 12 years were not enough to find an efficient synthesis, leaving space for countries or private companies (e.g. traffic lights in UK or French nutriscore).

“Stickers, traffic lights and any other type of signs which consider food in relation to whether there is a determined ingredient or nutrient – Scordamaglia specified – does not simplify a conscious choice in who is purchasing, but it represents a misleading tool which also may penalise the “Made in Italy” great excellences”.

What is the world state-of-art? EFA News rebuild the global map about the labelling systems based on nutritional contents of food that highlight those health “dangerous” nutrients, in particular mineral salts, fat and sugars. In fact, they bring to a Manichaean “good” and “evil” food distinction.

The most developed system in the whole world (USA, a big part of Europe and Turkey) is that one of GDA – Guideline Daily Amounts which affects about 17% of the global population. Born in 1998 in Usa, GDA represents the daily quantities about energy and nutrients that an adult, in a good health, has to take every day to have a balanced nutrition. GDA was proposed from the industrial field and has a voluntary basis. In GDA tables there are available data about the energy (calories) and the four most important nutrients - fats, saturated fat, sugars and sodium (salt) - that, if not used consciously they may increase some diseases development due to the wrong nutrition. This system has a realist planning (“I suggest you what you need, instead of forbidding what hurts you”).

The philosophy concerning stickers or traffic light is different because it creates a dangerous representation between good and evil food.

Traffic-light-stickers systems (red= do not buy me; green= go on) on a voluntary basis are common in Great Britain, Australia and France (the nutriscore version has a wide range of colours) and they concern the 2.1% of the global population.

Instead, the compulsory stickers are common in two countries: Ecuador and Iran (1.27% of the global population).

There are also the “danger” sign labels, as for cigarettes, which are compulsory in Chile and Uruguay (0.28 of global population). Chile owns the most extremist legislation in the world; not only is the use of sugar forbidden in all bakery products (that make use only replaced nutrients of suspicious healthiness), but also it introduced the threatening “black octagons” system on packs saying “Alto en azucares” (or “en calorosa” or “en grasa saturada”).

Many other proposals are showing up: Denmark and other North-European countries would like to adopt the “lock” system: a (green) sticker that represents a lock to let the consumer know the healthiness level (sweetener, trans industrial-production fat absence and respect for nutritional profiles). Romania passed a regulation (contested by the EU) which forces traffic light to be used for food containing additives.

Israel passed a regulation based on traffic lights too, which can come into force perhaps next yearby.

It is a matter of fact that right now almost 80% of the global population totally ignores this topic, maybe because instead of obesity it is affected by malnutrition.

lma - 2099

EFA News - European Food Agency