Nutri-Score creator backs alcohol label warnings as Italian wine sector calls any move an ‘affront’ to science

Pietro Paganini, founder and chairman of European think tank Competere, called the move a “affront to science and the wine sector”​, adding that this would represent a worrying “anti-alcohol orientation »by European authorities.

“Over the years, science has highlighted the importance of wine in a balanced diet”,he said, adding that the Nutri-Score is a “arbitrary and deceptive”labeling system that “stomp”​ the rich social and economic heritage of the Italian wine sector.

“We learned with astonishment and perplexity of the attempt to apply in the worst possible way a discriminatory, penalizing and fundamentally wrong system like the Nutri-Score also to alcoholic beverages”​, said Micaela Pallini, president of the Federvini Italian Wine Federation.

“It’s an affront to consumer intelligence,“, she added, and “a slap in the face for a sector that has represented, for centuries, not only economic wealth, but above all a model of life and civilization. To label a food or a drink in red, or even in black as in our case, is to pillory and criminalize a product without associating it with the modes or occasions of consumption”.

Italian producers of foods such as olive oil, Parma ham and Parmesan cheese have long opposed the Nutri-Score food labeling system, which they say unfairly discriminates against these products. French Roquefort producers have also recently complained that the labeling system – which classifies foods and drinks according to their nutritional profile using a scale of five colors and letters – marks an attack on the heritage agricultural and gastronomic national of France.

It now seems to be the turn of Italian alcohol producers. Giovanni Busi, president of the Chianti Consortium, called Nutri-Score’s move to alcohol warnings “a new attack on the Italian, French and Spanish wine industries.”

‘No alcohol consumption without risk to health’?

But Nutri-Score supporters questioned the timing of the attacks. They come days before a European Parliament vote on February 14 which will likely see MEPs adopt a report by the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Combating Cancer (BECA), already endorsed by the European Commission last year, which concluded that there are no health risks associated with alcohol consumption.

Camille Perrin, Senior Food Policy Officer at consumer organization BEUC told us: “The proposal to use Nutri-Score on alcoholic beverages was first mentioned in the French media by the developers of the label as early as 2018, to our knowledge. However, it does not appear that this was seriously considered by the French authorities.

“We are a bit surprised by the controversy that erupted over the weekend over this when at EU level we have yet to get alcoholic beverages to simply carry a nutrition declaration and a list of ingredients – like all other foods and beverages.We are not aware of any discussions at EU level on extending front-of-package nutrition labeling to alcoholic beverages.

Nutritionist Serge Hercberg, one of the developers of the food labeling system, confirmed that Nutri-Score seeks to label alcoholic beverages to warn against their consumption.

“It has been shown that all alcoholic beverages, including wine, have deleterious effects on health even at low doses, especially for cancers”,he told this publication.

“That doesn’t mean we’re saying don’t drink them or ban them,”he explained. The warning, he said, was rather aimed at “fight against the current trivialization of alcohol consumption and the difficulties in understanding the message that alcohol abuse is dangerous for health. In France, alcohol is responsible for 41,000 deaths per year, 16,000 of which are linked to cancer. It is the leading cause of hospitalization and the same for all European countries.

European regulations currently mean that alcoholic beverages containing more than 1.2% alcohol are currently not covered by the Nutri-Score. Hercberg explained that the designers of Nutri-Score proposed that all alcoholic beverages be marked with a black F reserved exclusively for beverages that contain alcohol, even in small amounts.

In order to properly inform consumers, he suggested that the containers of all alcoholic beverages should indicate: the amount in grams of alcohol and sugar, the number of calories and a black Nutri-Score F reserved for beverages containing alcohol. alcohol even in small quantities.

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