Working together under industry trade group FCD (Fédération des entreprises du commerce et de la distribution), major French retailers such as Carrefour, Auchan and Casino presented their own nutrition label to the French ministry of health for its consideration last week during a consultation meeting.
Five aside – here’s four
With four colours – green, blue, amber and purple – the FCD says its SENS label is more inclusive and easier to understand. SENS is an acronym for simplified nutrition labelling system.
The FCD says it worked with scientific committees, professional groups and industry players for one year to develop the label that is based on EU nutritional values.
“Open to all, the algorithm [used to calculate the colour] can enhance the nutritional interest of each food category while maintaining a cross-sectional approach as it is applicable to the different food categories.”
Five is best?
In a report published in August this year, the advisory health body, HCSP (Haut conseil de la santé publique), came out in favour of the five-colour system, saying that it had the three most important factors for any nutrition label – it was eye-catching, simple to understand and effectively translated numerical nutritional values into meaningful information.
“After reviewing the feasibility of different scores and proposed systems at national and international level and after testing the database on the nutritional composition of foods on the French market, the HCSP considers that only the five-colour system meets the criteria of relevance and feasibility for a synthetic nutritional information system.”
It also said scientific studies had shown the five-colour system to have high consumer acceptability.
Consumer rights group CLVC is also strongly in favour of a five-colour system – “like all actors in the health sector.” In a statement in French it said: “We encourage industry and distributors who have doubts and who could be tempted to delay its implementation, to adopt this new logo as soon as it is launched, even if they are not obliged to”.
But French food industry association ANIA called the nutrition label simplistic saying it applied a "medicalised and theoretical" approach to diet.
“A balanced diet of an individual cannot be reduced to a coloured sticker on a product. These nutritional scoring systems unfairly stigmatise foods as they are based on theoretical calculations taking into account 100 g product without distinguishing actual consumption by consumers.”
French food safety body, ANSES, is due to review the FCD's new label. It had previously called the five-colour label ‘technically feasible.’
A health bill is currently being examined by the French Parliament and includes an article calling for symbolic or graphic information to represent nutritional values. The bill will be voted by deputies in the parliament on 16 November.