In March last year, Coca-Cola, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever announced they would add nutrition logos, modelled on the UK’s traffic light label, to their European portfolios.
The manufacturers’ Evolved Nutrition logo differs, however, in that it uses portion sizes to calculate the nutrient content rather than 100 g. The result, according to Foodwatch, is that references are based on “mini portion sizes” and products seem healthier than they are.
For instance, under the Evolved Nutrition logo, Ferrero’s chocolate and hazelnut spread would receive a red light if it contained more than 90% sugar, Foodwatch claims.
"The [UK traffic light] turns red for sugar as soon as a product contains more than 15% sugar. In contrast, the [Evolved Nutrition logo] calculates the coloring on the basis of portion sizes. For all portions up to 60 grams, it will only turn red when one portion contains more than 13.5 g of sugar," it said.
Mondelez’s "Philadelphia Balance Cucumber Feta" cream cheese has a red light under the UK system for saturated fats but a yellow light under the Evolved Nutrition logo.
Foodwatch press officer Sophie Häuser said: “With our research we want to show what the goal behind the industry proposal is: to make sugary sweets and fatty snacks look healthier than they really are.
“Even with sweets such as Nutella, which consists of about 90% sugar and fat, or fatty-salt snacks such as Tuc crackers, the traffic light would not turn red. The companies are making nonsense of the idea of consumer-friendly labelling.“
Individual member states cannot make nutrition labelling mandatory, as this would infringe EU laws on the single market, meaning all logos in the bloc are
However, governments can promote specific ones and encourage industry to use them. The UK’s traffic light was developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) while France’s NutriScore was chosen by the Ministry of Health as the country’s official logo.
'This will encourage industry to reformulate'
A spokesperson for the ENL initiative told FoodNavigator: "The portion-based approach reflects the actual contribution of a smaller portion of a given nutrient (red when more than 15% of the Reference Intake) to the diet. By taking this portion-based approach, the ENL scheme encourages the industry to reformulate and to provide smaller portions."
Häuser continued: “The best labelling systems were developed on the basis of independent research and beyond lobbying interests.They rely on colour coding, such as the British traffic light based on the original guidelines of the Foods Standards Agency or the French five-colour ‘NutriScore‘. Our main goal is to get a consumer-friendly, obligatory traffic light system. [It is] of secondary importance is to us whether it’s based on the French or on the British model.
The campaign group is calling “clear, understandable and comparable“ at a glance.
“The Scandinavian countries have the ‘Keyhole‘ nutrition label, which only labels products that are healthy,“ Häuser said. “The good thing about this is that - as far as we know - it’s quite well known and companies have an incentive to improve their formulations to get the label. But it’s of course not as effective as a traffic light that also labels foodstuff with high amounts of fat, sugar or salt.“