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French consumer group condemns ‘lying and misleading’ food packaging

Examples included a 'beef ravioli' product which had only 4% beef

Significant food packaging in France is “misleading”, the consumer association said, and called for better regulations on ingredients, additives, and health claims Pic: Pack-Shot / Shutterstock

A consumer association in France has launched a campaign against ‘lying’ and misleading packaging after a five-year analysis of almost 900 products.

The CLCV (Association nationale de consommateurs et usagers) today (January 19) called for better regulations on packaging and labelling practices after studying the products between 2017 and 2021.

It found that there were “practices that mislead the consumer” across products from all sectors, including breakfast cereals, beef dishes, breaded fish, biscuits, vegetarian products, energy drinks, and yoghurts.

It cited an example of a “beef ravioli [product] with only 4% beef”, a dairy product with photos of juicy fruit on its packaging despite it containing “very little to no fruit”.

It also found instances of packaging that claimed dubious “nutritional or health claims”, and used scientifically-disputed terms such as “detox”.

The study also found considerable children’s products that were “very sweet, fatty, salty, and full of additives”.

In its statement, the CLCV said: “The origin of the ingredients is often unknown, despite the many French flags we saw, which in fact indicate the place of packaging or manufacture [not the ingredients]." 

The association is now calling for: 

  • The establishment of “minimum thresholds for ingredients to be able to highlight them in images”

  • “Better supervision of the use of nutritional and health claims” by companies on products

  • More transparency on the origins of ingredients.

  • Limits on the amount of “additives, flavourings, salt, fat and sugar in children's products".

It also encouraged manufacturers to start making these changes "without waiting for binding regulations".

It said that some manufacturers had already begun to improve their practices following the CLCV investigation, including the removal of certain words, improvements in recipes, and the “display of the Nutri-Score in places where it was not previously displayed”. 

But Lisa Faulet, scientific and food manager of the association, told AFP that the changes had “still not been applied to all products as they are voluntary initiatives by certain brands", and called for "further regulatory action".

Related stories

Petition against 'half empty' food packaging sold in France 

French MPs want shops to swap plastic packaging for refill stations 

Petition on European food labels seeks 1m signatures 

All food adverts must show health score, France votes 

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