Current experience on nutritional information…

Date - 13 / 04 / 2018

Current experience on nutritional information…

Current experience on nutritional information in the EU and Latin America: how Brazil could benefit.  (Daniele Bianchi[1])

Food does not escape from the intervention of lawmakers around the world. Today even eating habits fall under the protective hands of the law.

The fight against obesity and the search for simple ways to communicate nutritional messages to consumers is a priority in Brazil and in many other countries in Latin America.

Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are working on legal solutions to protect consumers for public health reasons, with different approaches that are undoubtedly influenced by the political, economic and legal systems in which they are developed.

At the same time, practical testing is ongoing in Europe and Latin America on alternative nutritional labels for consumer information.

In some ways, two lines can be identified: on the one hand, a soft voluntary approach addressing an apparently educated and informed consumer; and on the other hand, a more direct approach stigmatising products for an unaware consumer. At first sight, these two lines appear so distant from each other and, in many aspects, diametrically opposed, that it might seem unfruitful even to dare a comparison. Yet it is possible to draw some lessons from the concrete implementation of the two approaches in order to develop a half-a-way approach that could be useful for countries still in the process of thinking or rethinking their nutritional information. This would be the case of Brazil.

In the end, there is common ground where both these approaches find a point of contact. The EU and Brazil are two important traders in the Atlantic. Following the freezing of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investments Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and USA after the last presidential election in the United States, the current negotiation of a trade agreement with MERCOSUR – where Brazil is the main actor – is again on top of the EU’s political agenda. The scope of this paper is not, however, to examine the difficult negotiations for this future agreement, which have been ongoing for ages.

The fact that two important actors in the Atlantic ring are searching for solutions to protect their respective consumers will certainly have repercussions when and if the two actors conclude a common trade agreement, even if this agreement does not cover those areas directly[1].

This article will focus on the evolution of nutritional information for consumers in the EU and Brazil, taking account of similar and parallel experience that is ongoing in other parts of Latin America.

In the jungle of pure marketing, and in the marshes of the indications, labels and logos that invade the space on the packaging of foodstuffs, it is not always easy for the consumer to separate the wheat from the chaff[2].  In several European and non-European countries, testing is being carried out on nutritional information.  Does this answer consumers’ expectations?  And which consumers?

Eating healthily today cannot be restricted to one social class, but should be the normal choice for any consumer who is educated, informed and aware of their role.  By reading the packaging of food products, consumers should be able to choose to buy products that are aimed at feeding their body, rather than products that are artificially highly processed – as are most processed products or soft drinks on the market, which only fill your body.

We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the British, French and Chilean experience, before seeing how Brazil could benefit from this experience[3] and before putting forward an alternative proposal.

[1]                     Daniele Bianchi, PhD, Advisor-Senior Legal Expert of the Legal Service of the European Commission and contracting Professor of Food Law at Sorbonne University in Paris. All views expressed here are the author’s alone.

[1]              See the attempt of Trump administration to limit the ability of NAFTA’s members (including the US) to warn consumers about the dangers of junk food in the current ongoing trade talks, as reported by New York Times, 20 March 2018.

[2]                     See D.BIANCHI, Comment lire l’étiquette d’un aliment…et reconnaître faux produits naturels et vrais produits chimiques!, Les points sur les i, Paris, Dec. 2017, p.170. Currently being translated into Italian, Portuguese and English.

[3]                     Other experiences are ongoing in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, in Europe, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. In South America, Ecuador is experiencing a variation of the UK traffic lights system and Uruguay is doing public consultations on a model based on the Chilean experience. This latter could have an impact as Uruguay is part of the MERCOSUR where the nutritional labelling is among the harmonised rules inside the group.

(Please continue reading the above text in the attached paper, for use of the Network only.)

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