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Upset over call to label wine nutritionally ‘unhealthy’ in France

The creators of France’s Nutri-Score, which gives supermarket products a ranking from A-E depending on their health benefits, want to give alcohol a score of F

It is possible that soon wines will be labelled ‘F’ in Nutri-Score scheme Pic: taras.chaban / Shutterstock

Scientists who came up with France’s Nutri-Score A-E health food labelling scheme are calling for all alcoholic drinks to be labelled ‘F’. 

This is in addition to showing its sugar content and calories, said nutritionist Prof Serge Hercberg, one of the founders of the scheme.

The idea has, predictably, infuriated the wine industry, including in Italy. The EU is said to be keen to use the Nutri-Score concept across the bloc.

From late next year, the requirement to carry standard nutritional information on food will be extended in the EU to alcoholic drinks.

Nutri-Score began in France in 2017. It is not mandatory but there are calls to make it so.

A high content of fruits and vegetables, fibre, protein and healthy oils tends to mean A and B scores, while too much sugar, saturated fatty acids or sodium usually mean a D or E.

When it comes to displaying standard nutritional information and ingredients, wine and most other alcohols which have only one main ingredient (grapes or cereal grains) but which can have lots of additional substances such as sulphites, have been given special dispensation from carrying all the information on the bottle.

Nutri-Score began in France in 2017, it is a nutritional rating system Pic: ricochet64 / Shutterctock

Christophe Château, of the Conseil Interpro-fessionnel  du Vin de Bordeaux, said: “We will not have to have an extra label on the bottle, but instead a QR code or an internet link.”

He said having a low F Nutri-Score would not “make us happy, but you have to go with the flow”.  

He added: “It is a reminder that wine does contain a lot of calories – around 80 for a glass of red wine. We are confident most people will see the information for what it is. We always advise people to drink for enjoyment and in moderation.”

The Demeter organisation, which certifies biodynamic wines, said: “We will continue to have wines certified as Demeter wines with the highest possible bio-dynamic principles. If Nutri-Score says that is an F, that is their problem, not ours.”

The proposals led to a diplomatic incident when the Italian agriculture minister wrote an open letter on the subject to President Macron.

“I want to know what  Macron thinks of the latest propositions from Nutri-Score, who now say we should have a black F for all drinks containing a little bit of alcohol,” Gian Carlo Centinaio wrote. “Is the French president in agreement with this?”

Nutri-Score has also come under fire from cheesemakers, angry that most artisan and AOP cheeses get a low D or E because of fat and salt.

Related stories:

Winery in France offers bottle refill scheme to cut carbon footprint

AOP or IGP, doux or liquoreux…How to interpret French wine labels

‘Wine for people in love’: Exploring France’s two most romantic towns

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