The Ministry of Consumption will remove olive oil from Nutriscore, the nutritional traffic light that it intends to implement in the coming months. As reported by sources from the department led by Alberto Garzón to elDiario.es, Spain “has already formally proposed to the Nutriscore governing bodies” the exclusion of this product from the system, an approach that has been received “positively” by the rest of the countries. . In Spain, once Nutriscore is implemented and before the official exclusion of the oil, supermarkets will not require this labeling from oil producers, as agreed by the Ministry and the distribution sector. Membership of Nutriscore will be, in any case, voluntary.
Consumption thus responds to the demands of the sector, which in recent months has shown its “resounding rejection” of a system with which it gets a bad mark. Olive oil was rated D (unfavorable), but Spain fought to improve their score and managed to raise it to C in 2018. It is not enough for the oil interprofessional. In a letter sent to the minister on February 4, the organization warned that “many consumers will assume” said note “as a warning to limit their consumption.” It so happens that seed oils – including rapeseed, of which France is a producer – also climbed a notch in 2018 and now have C.
Nutriscore is a front-end food labeling system – in English, front-of-pack labeling, o FOP— which rates each product with a letter and color, with A (dark green) being the healthiest and E (red) being the worst. It was developed by French scientists and is implemented in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, but it is not mandatory. The 2008 European regulation on food information introduced the concept of FOP and allowed it to be voluntary as there was no “understandable and acceptable” system for all European consumers. The idea was to collect experiences in various countries for future harmonization. Thirteen years have passed and the European Commission has not yet legislated on it, although it has announced its intention to do so late 2022.
In their government pact, the PSOE and United We Can pledged to “reduce the impact of junk food” by adopting a frontal labeling system. Even before the government was formed, the acting Ministry of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare – then led by María Luisa Carcedo and not divided into three, as now – announced the future implementation of Nutriscore and sparked controversy with olive oil Y Iberian ham.
The ministry then said it would exclude single ingredient foods, such as oil, milk, honey or eggs. The Nutriscore manual allows this: specifically, it allows the exclusion of unprocessed single ingredient products (such as honey) and processed products whose only ingredient has undergone maturation. But Health never got to implement it.
Now, the Garzón department is preparing its implementation in Spain and is maneuvering to remove the olive oil completely, so that it is not only excluded here but in the rest of the countries with Nutriscore. “It has monoingredient characteristics that would allow us to remove it. To make it effective, you first have to be part of the Nutriscore committees,” say Ministry sources. As it is very possible that this labeling will be mandatory in the future, Consumption understands that “it is essential to speed up the procedures for the exclusion of olive oil now so that it cannot generate a negative impact on the Spanish industry in the future.”
In Italy they are also concerned about the impact it could have on grana padano cheese, Parmesan and Parma ham. The idea circulates in the Spanish sector that Nutriscore made “adjustments” in its calculations to favor French cheeses, nuanced information (along with other “fake news”) by a team of scientists from the Sorbonne: An “inconsistency in the algorithm” was recognized that did not take into account that cheese is a source of calcium and moved up from E to D to most.
From Consumption they assure that the entry of our country into the Nutriscore system will be key to defend the interests of the industry. “The minister has always defended that the system was the best possible, but that it was still imperfect,” they underline. “It must be taken into account that Nutriscore is already being implemented in countries such as France, Holland and Germany, so being within the committees (of government and scientific) is the only way to defend the oil in other countries”.