System: Nutrition labelling models

Nutrition labelling models

Every existing labelling system has advantages and disadvantages, according to the scientists.
Every existing labelling system has advantages and disadvantages, according to the scientists.

GERMANY, Berlin. Nutri-Score, warnings, battery model or rather a keyhole system like in Scandinavia? A simplified, extended nutrition labelling system on the front of the food packaging is a central component of a holistic policy for healthy nutrition - and also a mandate from the coalition agreement in Germany.

Federal Minister Julia Klöckner therefore commissioned the Max Rubner Institute (MRI) to investigate selected relevant nutrition labelling systems. The report has now been submitted and is one of the bases for the further decision-making process. The report is preliminary as the EU Commission's report to be considered has not yet been submitted.

In Germany, 47% of the women, 62% of the men and 15% of the children and adolescents are overweight. Too much sugar, fats, saturated fatty acids and too much salt are not the only, but important reasons for the development of diet-related diseases such as obesity or cardiovascular diseases.

In addition to the reduction and innovation strategy, a simplified, expanded nutrition labelling system is an important building block for healthy nutrition: if consumers can easily see what a food is like in terms of nutrients, orientation becomes easier and healthy choices easier. A comprehensible presentation on the front of the food can thus influence the product selection and thus the nutrient supply in a nutritionally favourable way.

There are various nutrition labelling models worldwide with different objectives and target groups. While some describe or evaluate the energy or nutritional value of a product individually (as with the British traffic light), others give a summary assessment of the health value of an entire product (as with Keyhole, Choices, Finnish Heart Symbol, Nutri-Score and Health Star Rating).

The MRI has examined a total of eleven relevant nutrition labelling models and the salt warning required in Finland along 18 criteria. The criteria are based on nutritional physiological and social-scientific aspects (e.g. suitability for product groups, consumer friendliness, evaluation of favourable and unfavourable ingredients, orientation towards scientifically founded reference quantities).

The preliminary MRI report clarifies the different objectives of the existing models and the associated strengths and weaknesses of the nutrition labelling systems examined, which have already been introduced in various countries. Every existing labelling system has advantages and disadvantages, according to the scientists. No nutrition labelling model can therefore be fully recommended or rejected. The report creates a comparable and scientifically sound basis for discussion. The results will be incorporated into the further process of developing a simplified, extended nutrition labelling system for Germany.

In Germany, mandatory nutrition labelling has been in place since the end of 2016. A decision on the nature of the extended nutrition labelling system provided for in the coalition agreement is still pending. It will be developed by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) together with consumers, the food industry, the craft trades and other stakeholders. Some of these stakeholders have very different ideas.

The following must be taken into account:

  • The EU Commission has also announced a report on the evaluation of existing voluntary nutrition labelling systems. The report is not yet available and the publication date has been postponed several times. The MRI report must therefore be reviewed and possibly updated once the EU report has been published. In the future, an EU-wide extended nutrition labelling system would make sense.
  • EU legislation only allows for the possibility that EU Member States introduce an extended nutrition labelling system as a non-binding solution.
  • The introduction of a simplified extended nutrition labelling system requires the support and acceptance of companies in the food industry and trade. In order for many consumers to be able to find their way to a healthy diet, as many labelled foods as possible are needed in as many food markets as possible.
  • Once an agreement has been reached on a labelling system, this will be made known and explained to consumers. Federal Nutrition Minister Klöckner would like to test concrete labelling systems for consumer understanding as early as the development stage. The MRI will also submit a proposal for a labelling system, which will be tested within this framework.
Source: BMEL