All food adverts must show health score, France votes

All food advertising in France must now show the food’s official “Nutri-Score” mark to let consumers know at a glance how healthy the product is, the Assemblée Nationale has voted this week.

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The vote passed on Thursday February 21. The measure was originally proposed by opposition political party La France Insoumise, as part of a wider set of food health suggestions dubbed “la #LoiMalbouffe [the Junk Food Law]”.

The law will make it compulsory for any French media advertising - including online, on television, and radio - to clearly display the food’s “Nutri-Score” mark - from A to E.

The Nutri-Score system was first launched in France in November 2017, in a bid to make it easier for consumers to see the nutritional content of a given food, especially for pre-packaged, “junk food”, or processed items. A is the most healthy score, descending through B, C and D, with E the least healthy.

It is not currently mandatory to display the score on food packaging, meaning that the logo is still not widely used.

The new law will enter into force from January 1 2021, to allow the industry to prepare and adapt.

There are some exceptions: for the law to apply, the advert must be broadcast or otherwise sent out from mainland France, and be consumed and seen in mainland France.

And, in some cases, advertisers may be able to waive the rules by paying a fee to national public health agency l'Agence Nationale de Santé Publique instead.

Yet, La France Insoumise party has hailed the advertising vote as “a victory” and “a step forward for health”, despite some members of the party complaining that the majority of the Assemblée had “almost entirely emptied” the law of its usefulness.

Marseille MP and president of La France Insoumise party Jean-Luc Mélenchon asked if voting in a “law emptied of its substance” was part of a “new strategy”, and said “you [the Assemblée] have removed all of our [proposed] articles. But we will be happy with the Nutri-Score [for now]. We will make do.”

The law originally also included clauses on lowering acceptable levels of salt, sugar and fat; banning certain additives; reducing how much food advertising children are able to see; and introducing at least one hour of food education per week in schools and collèges (middle school).

Writing on Twitter, Loïc Prud’homme, MP with La France Insoumise, said: “Our #LoiMalbouffe [Junk Food Law] has been almost entirely emptied by the majority today. The lobbyists still reign…

“Despite everything though, a victory: the law to impose NutriScores onto adverts was voted through. A step forward for health.”

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