France declares war on Italy over a decision on red tape… and Rome triumphs.
ITALY appears to be winning a food fight with France over EU bureaucracy.
The Italian government is fighting Nutri-Score, a French food labeling system that has been hailed as a possible EU-wide standard.
Its use of red-to-green traffic light bands to warn of fatty and salty foods has angered Italian chefs, who claim it unfairly punishes delicacies like olive oil and Parmesan cheese.
Rome claims it is now persuading Madrid to agree with its view that Mediterranean countries must band together to protect iconic foods that may be labeled with a red health warning.
“I thought it was a lost battle,” Italy’s Food and Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli told the country’s parliament in December.
Spain has now stated that it has completely changed its mind and is now opposed to Nutri-Score.
France is beset by internal difficulties.”
He later insisted that if Spain made its opposition official, a blocking minority would prevent the European Commission from gaining approval from EU heads of state for a possible Nutri-Score proposal.
In a potential setback, Italy’s competition authority has opened five investigations into the use of Nutri-Score in the country by companies such as Carrefour, a French supermarket chain, and Weetabix, a British company.
The fear is that the Nutri-Score label will be interpreted as absolute assessments of a product’s healthiness, regardless of a person’s diet, lifestyle, or how much they eat as part of a varied and balanced diet.
Nutri-Score converts a product’s nutritional value into a five-letter code with its own color.
Each item is graded using a scientific algorithm that considers nutrients to avoid as well as nutrients that are beneficial, such as fiber.
Italy believes the tectonic plates of food diplomacy are shifting in its favor, according to POLITICO, as its lobbying at home and in Brussels wins over politicians, farmers’ unions, and food behemoths such as Ferrero.
However, things have gotten a little messy, as they do with any food fight.
Serge Hercberg, a nutritional science professor at the University of Sorbonne Paris Nord, led the team that created Nutri-Score, which is backed by the city of Paris.
Gian Marco Centinaio, the League’s secretary of state and former minister of agriculture, made a bogus claim in November.
“News from the Brinkwire.”