Smoke and mirrors or clear communication? Industry clashes over Evolved Nutrition Label

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

Smoke and mirrors or clear communication? Industry clashes over Evolved Nutrition Label
As Coca-Cola, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever develop their Evolved Nutrition Label, the dairy industry has slammed it as "nonsense" while consumer groups brand it “an attempt to scramble” France’s official NutriScore.

The six manufacturers announced in March this year they would add the logo, based on the UK’s voluntary but widely adopted traffic light logo, to products in their European portfolios.

However, French consumer groups UFC-Que Choisir and CLCV launched an online petition on Change.org​ ​today, calling on the food industry to reject the Evolved label and instead adopt France’s official NutriScore logo, which has government backing.

The Evolved Nutrition Label (ENL) gives a colour based on individual nutrients such as sugar, fat and salt - meaning a single product could simultaneously have a green and red light - while the NutriScore takes the global nutritional value of the product as a whole into account. The Evolved logo also gives nutritional information per portion while NutriScore is per 100 g. 

Launched this morning (1 December), the petition already had over 500 signatures at the time of publication of this article.

The petition “strongly condemns all attempts to scramble this initiative [NutriScore], especially the position of large multinationals (Nestlé, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mars, Mondelez and Unilever) who refuse the Nutri-Score and call […] to use another system, based on a portion-wise approach”.

It slammed the ENL as “less clear​” and “a source of confusion​” for consumers.

EDA: 'Serious and obvious nonsense'

The secretary general of the European Dairy Association (EDA), Alexander Anton also fiercely criticised the ENL at protest a joint meeting of the ‘High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity’ and the ‘EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health’ held yesterday in Luxembourg.

He said: "If a [nutrition logo] scheme had to be set up, it should take its starting point not at national but at EU level and it must take into account the nutritional overall value of a foodstuff. A nutrition labelling scheme where a diet soda drink ranks ‘healthier’ than a glass of drinking milk is serious and obvious nonsense."

Anton told FoodNavigator the Commission should take a more active role in laying down guidelines. 

"Until now, the Commission has not really brought this this dossier at EU level: we are still talking national initiatives or initiatives driven by some food multinationals. And in this later case, 'commercial interests prevent action' to quote EU Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. So far, the EU Commission limits itself to moderating these discussions. We feel the Commission should at least elaborate a few guiding lines for these discussions in order to avoid to lose our time in discussing nonsense proposals like the Evolved logo." 

Nestle: Using 'Nutri-Couleurs' traffic light logo 

A spokesperson for Nestle said: "We are aligned with the French government that nutrition labelling needs to be made more intuitive for consumers. We believe that both ‘Nutri-Couleurs’ [traffic light labelling] and ‘Nutri-Score’ have distinct benefits for consumers. Our decision to adopt ‘Nutri-Couleurs’, which provides colour-coded information per nutrient – rather than an overall score - can guide consumers in an intuitive way on nutrients that matter for their health, in line with the applicable European regulations." 

"The six companies leading the ENL initiative are currently assessing the credibility of the proposed option, that was developed following an open, inclusive and transparent engagement with a number of experts and stakeholders. This assessment will help to make an informed decision and ensure it is compliant with EU rules.

"Until this work is finished, Nestlé has decided to adopt in France the ‘Nutri-Couleurs’ scheme, which is the closest to the ENL scheme."

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), the European Heart Network (EHN) and the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) issued a joint statement​ yesterday both praising and condemning the ENL.

“The introduction of a well-conceived colour-coded front-of-pack scheme is widely recognised as an important component of a comprehensive strategy for reducing the health and economic burden of diet-related diseases.

“Such labelling must be understood at a glance by consumers and allow straightforward comparison between products,” ​they wrote.

However, they added: “We oppose moves to use portion sizes for colour-coded nutritional information. Not only will this make it harder for consumers to compare foods, but it is also likely to mislead them as to the nutritional quality of the product.

“This in turn defeats the point of having simplified nutritional information: to help the consumer select the healthier option.”

FoodNavigator contacted Unilever, Mars, Coca-Cola and Mondelez but not hear back in time for publication of this article.

Related topics: Food labelling, Policy

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