The Nutri-Score, also known as the 5-Color Nutrition label or 5-CNL, is a five-colors nutrition label which aims at providing a quick and user-friendly visualization of the overall nutritional value of food and beverages.
This system was first adopted in France, in 2017, and chosen among several labels suggested by industry professionals and retailers. The Nutri-Score is based on the computation of a nutrient profiling system derived from the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency nutrient profiling system (FSA score).
In particular, food products are divided into 5 categories, based on a score calculated by subtracting the total amount of the “positive” elements (percentage of fruit, vegetables, fiber, protein etc.) from the total amount of the “negative” elements (salt, saturated fatty acids, sugars etc.). Foods showing very low scores belong to category A (green), while those showing the highest scores belong to category E (red).
Over the past few years, the Nutri-Score system has been discussed extensively. On the one hand, the EU is aiming to implement harmonized, mandatory, front-of-pack nutrition labeling for all of Member States by 2022 in the framework of the F2F (Farm to Fork) strategy, and the Nutri-score is one of the potential labels being considered. On the other hand, the Italian agri-food industry is opposing the implementation of the Nutri-Score system, suggesting the adoption of a different system, the Nutrinform battery. However, according to a study carried out by the Joint Research Centre of the EU Commission, this alternate system has been rejected by the consumers.
The Nutri-Score system has recently been brought to the attention of the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM), that recently issued several decisions regarding the use of said system by a number of companies active in the food industry (see AGCM decisions nos. 30237, 30240, 30241, and 30243 dated 12 July 2022).
In particular, AGCM stated that the Nutri-Score label, lacking proper warnings, will mislead the consumers because they may perceive the label as an assessment of the healthiness of a food product, regardless of an individual’s overall needs, quantity, and frequency of food intake in the framework of a balanced diet.
To overcome the critical issues raised by AGCM during the assessment, companies submitted commitment proposals including the withdrawal of some products bearing the Nutri-Score labels, and the inclusion of information and warnings (such as flyers, shelf tags, websites, QR codes) regarding the functioning of the Nutri-Score system.
AGCM deemed the above mentioned commitments suitable to overcome the unfairness of the use of Nutri-Score, and terminated the proceedings without finding any violation and making the commitments suggested by the parties mandatory.
A few days ago, in a different case AGCM imposed on the French company Régime Dukan Société par actions simplifiée a fine of Euro 30,000 (decision no. 30242 published on 12 September 2022). In this case, the company did not submit any commitment proposals, claiming that their conduct complied with the guidelines issued by the French Ministry of Health. However, AGCM – maintaining the position taken with the mentioned prior decisions – concluded that the Nutri-Score label misleads the consumers as it does not provide proper information, is not supported by reliable scientific basis, and provides an assessment on the healthiness of a food product without considering the individual’s overall diet.