French Food Agency (ANSES): Report released on the feasibility of a colour coded labelling system

The French Food Agency (ANSES) have released a report on the feasibility of a colour-coded labelling system promoted by Professor Hercberg, and developed by Rayner et al. (2005), but the outcomes are conflicting.

The system developed in the study is feasible; ANSES was able to create a nutritional profile for certain products, but some foods and food categories could not be assigned correctly or properly differentiated (e.g., sodas from waters). Also, the scale is relative not absolute, meaning it would have to be re-examined from time-to-time to ensure it relevance to current food products.

The proposed colour-coded scores would be based on nutritional values on foods, which will be mandatory throughout Europe from the 13 December 2016 (EU Regulation No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council), and would provide information based on sugar, fat and salt content, and energy as well as protein and fibre. However, concerns have been raised about the transparency of the process, and the verification of the data, because precise information about ingredient quantities and fibre, for example, are not mandatory and producers struggle to obtain nutritional data from reliable sources. Furthermore, values for fruits, vegetables and nuts would be hard to define.

The relevance of the colour-coded labelling system for the improvement of public health still needs to be explored. The model cannot take into account consumption habits (addition of salt, oil, cooking methods etc.), which can change nutritional values. However, the French Directorate General for Health (DGS) is likely to request further studies since the approach might allow consumers to receive rapid and simple feedback about their choices while shopping.

Read the report here.

More information:

Rayner M, Scarborough P, Stockley L. 2005 Nutrient profiles: applicability of currently proposed model for uses in relation to promotion of food to children aged 5–10 and adults.

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