In September 2022, the Romanian National Authority for Consumer Protection (ANPC) announced the ban of nutrition labelling scheme Nutri-Score across the country.
The decision followed discussions with the Association of Large Retail Chains in Romania, employers’ organisations, and the Romanian Meat Association.
At the time, the ANCP gave producers until 1 November to remove products carrying the Nutri-Score label from shelves. A grace period was later granted until 1 May 2023.
With the deadline just around the corner, the countdown is on until Nutri-Score banned in Romania.
A hotly debated FOP scheme
Nutri-Score was developed in France with the aim of making the healthy choice the easy choice for consumers. The algorithm ranks food from -15 for the ‘healthiest’ products to +40 for those that are ‘less healthy’. Based on this score, the product receives a letter with a corresponding code: from dark green (A) to dark red (F).
The European Commission plans to propose a harmonised, mandatory front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labelling scheme, and Nutri-Score has not been ruled out of contention. It was expected the Commission would announce its preferred labelling scheme by the end of last year, but in October 2022 (right before ANPC’s proposed ban), it was announced the decision would be delayed until 2023.
Nutri-Score is the preferred nutrition labelling scheme for some, but not all. Food majors Nestlé and Danone are amongst its backers, and countries including France, Belgium, Germany, and Luxembourg have selected it as their national voluntary label schemes.
But others, including proponents of Italy’s NutrInform Battery scheme and members of Spain’s meat industry, believe Nutri-Score to be discriminatory and unworthy of consideration for the EU-wide mandatory roll out.
As to the reasoning behind Romania’s ban, FoodNavigator understands it relates to recommendations from the Commission suggesting the scheme is incomplete. ANPC did not respond to a request for comment.
In the last days before the ban is enforced, food manufacturers and retailers in Romania have been working to clear shelves of products carrying the Nutri-Score label.
According to local media publication Ziare Locale 24, supermarket chain Mega Image is selling dozens of products at half-price if they carry the Nutri-Score label. The exact same products that don’t carry the label are being sold at full price.
Ziare Locale 24 reported that consumers are making the most of the discount pricing ahead of the 1 May deadline, with some buying in bulk and others purchasing items that would otherwise be out of budget.
For the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), which represents 46 consumer organisations from 32 countries – including the Asociata Pro Consumatori (APC) in Romania – the decision to ban Nutri-Score is ‘regrettable’.
ANPC expected the Commission would have come forward with its proposal for a FOP by now, explained BEUC. “It is clear that the proposal’s repeated delays are having multiple negative side effects,” Emma Calvert, senior food policy officer at BEUC, told FoodNavigator.
“It is not only denying consumers a useful information tool to help them opt for healthier choices in the supermarket, but it is also depriving operators and national authorities of legal certainty.”