As part of its new Farm to Fork strategy, the European Commission of the EU has presented a series of measures directed at helping consumers make healthier food choices and at promoting more sustainable food consumption patterns.
Being consumers themselves, farmers support policies that could contribute to improving consumers’ eating habits and health. However, after reading the proposals regarding nutrition information contained in the recently published Farm to Fork strategy, many farmers are concerned that not only would the commission fail to achieve those objectives, but the proposals would severely undercut an already fragile EU farming community and compromise years of effort to promote its high production standards around the world.
In its strategy, the commission proposes harmonised and mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FOPNL) during 2020 to ‘enable consumers to make health-conscious food choices’.
Furthermore, in its report, ‘Regarding the use of additional forms of expression and presentation of the nutrition declaration’, published on the same day, the commission seems to favour the use of a colour-coded FOPNL system.
As farmers, we welcome the opportunity to support a measure for improving consumers’ health, and believe that the highly nutritious food we produce can contribute to it. However, we fear that a colour-coded FOPNL system would end up presenting an over-simplistic classification of food products into those that are ‘good’, (in green), and those that are ‘bad’ (in red). Such a dichotomy would stigmatise highly nutritious products, such as olive oil, which are praised for their nutritional value by nutritionists everywhere.
Furthermore, this type of system also discriminates against many products with geographical indications (GIs) that are the result of a cultural and traditional heritage. Such a system would be catastrophic for these products, as the only way for them to avoid being discriminated against would involve reformulation. But to benefit from GIs or other quality schemes, the products have to meet exceptionally strict criteria, which means that reformulation would be extremely complicated or simply impossible.
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