How front-of-pack nutrition labelling can help consumers in making healthier food choices?
As part of the wider European Farm to Fork strategy toward a more sustainable food system and the Beating Cancer Plan, conversations around empowering healthy consumer choices have taken center stage. As such, particular interest has been placed in a harmonized, mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FOPNL) system across all European member states.
EIT Food together with Paulig - an international food and beverage company invited decision-makers, researchers, and experts from the food and beverage industry to share their knowledge, experience, and expectations around FOPNL and the way forward. The online discussion on 24th October included important considerations such as features, implications for consumers, and company learnings and best practices.
The discussion in a nutshell
- Front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FOPNL) policies are one key component in driving consumer decision making
- No FOPNL system may be perfect, but there is evidence already gathered, highlighting the impact of simpler, evaluative, colour-coded labels in a busy shopping context
- A FOPNL can encourage and guide companies to shape public health through transparency and reformulation
- Cross-sector collaboration for healthier and more sustainable European diets is essential and FOPNL harmonization is a concrete example
Speakers & Panelists
Why it is crucial to set a standardized food labelling system?
There are a number of existing FOPNL systems, with varied features and use cases. The food and beverage industry, as represented through Unilever and Paulig in the event, contributed with diverse perspectives around different features of FOPNL, but shared a common sentiment around the ultimate goal of empowering consumers in the quest for healthier products. Harmonized labelling system would provide independent, simplified guidance for consumers to make healthier and more conscious food choices.
Opportunities of the FOPNL system
The panel discussion kicked off with a broad question about the opportunities and challenges of a harmonized FOPNL system. The opportunities mentioned included reduced confusion from conflicting label information, easier and healthier purchase decision-making, increased consumer trust due to the mandatory nature of the label, and optimized company operations e.g., in labelling.
Mandatory or just an add-on to a package design?
With the aim to facilitate consumer choice through ubiquitous, consistent, and simple messaging across products and product categories, it was concluded that the case for a mandatory label is compelling, which would also create a more levelled “playing field” from a company perspective. The panellists all emphasized to the need for a thorough evaluation of independent, peer-reviewed scientific evidence and the subsequent implementation of an appropriate system.
- Overview of the Farm to Fork Strategy, in which the legislative proposal of the harmonization of FOPNL was announced and the Commission Report to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the use of additional forms of expression and presentation of the nutrition declaration (front-of-pack nutrition labelling).
- Two scientific literature reviews on FOPNL by the Joint Research Centre, which aims to provide evidence-based scientific support to the European policymaking process: A comprehensive review and an update of the evidence
- Background of the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) work on nutrient profiling for the development of harmonised FOPNL and the setting of nutrient profiles for restricting nutrition and health claims on foods, with a particular interest in EFSA’s Scientific Advice.