Garzón insists despite criticism and alternatives

The controversy raised by Nutriscore has not been enough for Minister Alberto Garzón to stop its questioned implementation. Smoothed emphasizing that the new nutritional information system is voluntary, the head of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs omits in his public appearances that the front labeling model will be mandatory across Europe in 2022, and that Spain could propose an alternative to the criticized ‘traffic light’, as has happened in Italy.

Garzón insists in his interventions on the benefits of the frontal labeling system for food products. Consumption sources refer to Vozpópuli to the statements made by the minister a few days ago in Malaga, in which he pointed out that the controversy has been “absolutely invented” Y reminded the Junta de Andalucía that its implementation dates back to 2018, before its arrival at the Ministry. In any case, advocates “choosing” the Nutriscore model -designed in France- because it is “the one that has the most support from scientists”, as well as nutrition specialists.

The truth is that much of the criticism comes from scientists and nutritionists. Influential nutritionists such as Carlos Ríos or Aitor Sánchez have regretted the implementation of this system that penalizes foods such as olive oil while giving the green light to products considered unhealthy, such as sugary cereals or sweetened soft drinks, since the large food industry has been able to circumvent the algorithm that determines the classification of the product.

Nutriscore labeling.
Nutriscore labeling.

Starting with a 100 gram serving, the Nustriscore algorithm lists each product by traffic light colors and from ‘A’ to ‘E’. It takes into account its composition. The result is that they receive a best valuation those that minimize the nutritional contribution -An example, Coca Cola Zero, practically sweetened water- and also those that incorporate nutrients that compensate for amounts of sugar of up to 25%, as happens with cereals such as Chocapic, despite the fact that many experts have been warning for years that these added nutritional values ​​are not enough to classify certain ultra-processed products as healthy.

The Nutriscore labeling system aims to inform consumers of the nutritional value of foods.
The Nutriscore labeling system aims to inform consumers of the nutritional value of foods. EFE

Nutriscore “It is skewing the test in which it counts above all not having things: if it does not have sugar, if it does not have salt …”. “The water would take note”, explains Aitor Sánchez: “What is the example? Sweetened soft drinks”. And “it is not only seen in diet sodas”: “A meat processing low in fat and salt, even if it was not healthy, would also have a good note”. However, other healthy foods like salmorejo or potato omelette are affected with low scoress: “This is the big downside, it allows there to be foods with good marks that are not healthy.”

Iberian ham and cheese require the same treatment as olive oil

Products high in natural fats are hurt by this way of measuring their convenience: margarine scores higher than butter. This has happened with extra virgin olive oil, which has set off alarms in a sector that is currently suffering from a severe price crisis and sees Nutriscore as the possible highlight of the business. Their common front has served to the Government proposes that extra virgin olive oil be exempt from the ‘traffic light‘nutritional as it is a mono-ingredient. But this gesture – the last word will be from the European Commission – has not been enough to silence criticism.

The Iberian ham sector, with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture led by the socialist Luis Planas, It has also joined the opposition, and that of cheese has followed the same path. Cheese makers ask for equal conditions so that your product receives the same treatment as the oil. They allege that cheese is “a fundamental product of the Mediterranean diet and an economic pillar in many rural areas of Spain.” Furthermore, they regret that the Nutriscore algorithm contradicts the recommendations of scientific authorities, which set the consumption of dairy rations per day at three.

Alternatives to Nuriscore

Nutriscore was born in France and is currently implanted in both seven countries: Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain. Apparently conceived as the only solution to nutrition problems on the continent, the truth is that the European Commission has not yet opted for a definitive system. Although the decision to adopt a homogeneous labeling model has already been made, how will not be defined until the end of 2022. It will be next year when member states share their experiences, since countries have scope to develop their own systems.

Italy has proposed its own labeling system for food products, raised precisely as an alternative to the French model to protect ‘Made in Italy’ food

This is the case of Italy, which last year proposed its own labeling system for food products, set out precisely as alternative to the French model to protect ‘Made in Italy’ food. Prepared jointly by the Italian ministries of Economic Development, Health, and Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, the system named NutrInform Battery It owes its name to the pile that illustrates the nutritional information provided to the consumer.

El NutrInform Battery destaca five meters with the percentage of calories, fat, sugars and salt per individual serving, compared to the recommended daily allowance by the European Union. This model has also been criticized for being unintuitive and be based on the same strategy -failed- followed up to now to inform the consumer of the nutritional content with a table that in most cases is used in the back label and avoid making a judgment about the product in question.

“There are no good or bad foods”

Minister Garzón defends that “no system is perfect” and emphasizes the endorsement of the scientific consensus to support the Nustriscore, even if it does not exist. The ‘traffic light’ system has against a multitude of producers and nutrition experts such as Jorge Jordana, former secretary general of the Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB) and director of the Master in Agri-Food Business Management at the University of Nebrija, which has spoken out against it in an Agropoopular interview.

For Jordana, “it is discredited for many causes: the first is because there are no good or bad foods “, but rather” they are taken together “, in diets. In addition, Jordana emphasizes that” nutrition sciences are in full progress “, so it does not consider valid scientific criteria to give general advice when we know that this is highly questioned. In summary, Nutriscore “confuses”: “It does not respond to any scientific scheme, even if they say so. […] There is no unanimity; with which there is no science “.

The Nutriscore ideologist, Serge Hercberg, recognized a year ago “the gaps” of this system when labeling certain foods, such as sugary cereals, common in the breakfast of many children in Spain, one of the countries with the highest rate of childhood obesity. As justified, although the main cereal brands have been cataloged with low scores, it has not been so with their ‘bio’ versions considering that “their high level of natural fibers and proteins minimize the negative elements associated with sugar.”

Source: Vozpópuli by

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