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Food Labeling in the European Union: A Review of Existing Approaches

European Union

Aug 22, 2022

This review explores the phenomenon of front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FoPNL) in the EU. FoPNLs highlight the nutritional quality of food and non-alcoholic beverages and help consumers to make healthier choices. The review explores different types of FoPNLs and evaluates their effectiveness. Design/methodology/approach: A policy analysis was conducted, relying on extant academic literature, grey literature and policy documents. The use of current FoPNLs is interpreted in light of national and economic interests. Findings: Our review identifies and describes seven government endorsed FoPNLs that are currently used in the EU. Five are positive endorsement labels (Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania, Slovenia, Sweden), which provide a positive indication only on more healthy products. Keyhole is used in three EU countries (Denmark, Lithuania, Sweden), while the others are used in one country each. One (Nutri-Score) is a summary label, which provides an overall grade of how healthy a product is. It is used in six countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Luxembourg). One is a nutrient-specific non-interpretive scheme, which shows the content of nutrients in a portion of a food product. All identified labels are only used on voluntary basis, encouraging selective use. Originality: This review is contributing to a much-needed discussion about food labeling in the EU. It summarizes existing approaches and evaluates them in terms of their effectiveness. The current schemes in use reflect regional clustering. The most common scheme is Nutri- Score. This is used predominantly in western EU states. The next predominant is Keyhole, with summary endorsement schemes being predominant in northern EU states. The least common is Nutrinform, which has some support in southern EU states. Nutri-score is most effective but economic interests have led to Nutrinform being supported in a small number of states. Overall, the review suggests that all existing FoPNLs are voluntary, thus failing to provide consumers with adequate information about nutrition quality of food products. The EU needs to mobilize support to agree on a single one.

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