Food labels: why the French are right to be wary

According to an OpinionWay survey for the start-up Alkemics, a majority of French consumers say they are suspicious of the inscriptions on food packaging. A well-founded concern, according to a previous study by the NGO Foodwatch.

For those who still doubted it, the time when the French bought their food with confidence is well and truly over. According to , 83% learn about food products, 64% do so by reading the packaging and 17% already use mobile applications, for example. Vigilant, they are also critical: the information on the packaging is according to them “not complete” (63%), “not very transparent” (62%), “insufficient” (61%) and “imprecise” (58%). In general, 44% of French people consider the information unreliable.

This desire for information is reflected in consumption habits: thus, more than one in two French people questioned has already given up on a purchase because of a lack of information on a food product, mainly with regard to products foreigners, first prizes and prepared meals. The information that concerns them the most is the composition, the origin and the expiry date. They are above all focused on quality (88%), “made in France” (87%) and finally products that are good for health (87%).

For the nutritionist, initiator of the index, “these data are not surprising. There has been a growing interest in nutrition issues over the past 20 years. This can be explained in two distinct ways: on the one hand, the increase in obesity and diabetes has led to a health questioning of our ways of consuming. Then, from the end of the 2000s, several health scandals, such as , led to a loss of consumer confidence in companies. From now on, we are looking for transparency and traceability”. According to him, “we no longer believe what is illustrated on the packaging, these flamboyant images which completely mislead the consumer into believing, for example, that he will find a large quantity of fruit in a yogurt when the composition will be good different”.

False Health Claims

The health argument in marketing is increasingly judged with circumspection: 22% of consumers would like indications such as “low fat content”, “no added sugar” or “detox product” to appear smaller or even disappear from the packaging. And in fact, consumers seem to have good reason to be wary of what is written on the packaging. Last March, a survey by the NGO Foodwatch entitled “” alerted to false health claims. In its crosshairs is the false marketing of the agri-food industry, using illegitimate or even sometimes illegal miracle formulas, with complete impunity. Through 20 examples, the survey demonstrates the different strategies to deceive the consumer. This therefore ranges from “detox” herbal tea to margarine which says it reduces cholesterol “but it takes six slices of bread a day to reduce it”, passing through the energizing smoothie “but stuffed with sugar”. How is it that the industry can allow itself so much freedom? For the NGO Foodwatch, there is no doubt, responsibility.

As the NGO points out, it is the European Union which, through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) based in Parma, Italy, the inscriptions on the packaging of goods. The Regulation considers as any promise “which states, suggests or implies the existence of a relationship between, on the one hand, a category of foodstuffs, a foodstuff and one of its constituents, and on the other hand, health”. We can read on the that “one of the key objectives of this regulation is to ensure that any claim made on the label of a food sold within the EU is clear and substantiated by scientific evidence”.

“At EFSA, they are overwhelmed with files, they cannot carry out an investigation”.

Laure Séguy, author of the thesis “From nutrition to nutritional labelling: a history of the commercial and political domestication of nutrients”

Claims are in principle prohibited, unless they are validated by the European authorities. Until 2011, the EFSA thus validated 222 applications for authorization on “Except that there were not enough means or personnel compared to the number of applications filed”, deplores Laure Séguy, who carried out on this subject in 2014. “They are overwhelmed with files, they can’t do an investigation,” she adds. As a result, in 2012, around 2000 claims – mainly concerning those related to botany – were “provisionally” suspended at the request of the European Commission, for further consultation. And since then, status quo.

On the , it reads that “all claims that are pending or under review will be prohibited.” However, the 2006 regulations contradict this assertion, providing that these claims can be used, even put in abeyance. In other words, without an expressly stated prohibition, brands are allowed to use the health claims they have chosen to display on their products.

Lobbying and citizen pressure

For Serge Hercberg, “every time the European Union tries to better control what is written on the packaging, the process is extremely long and the result disappointing, because, for the claims as for the Nutri-score, the agri-food lobbies pressured it to fail. Italy above all, and then Germany, are doing everything to ensure that no legislation in this area can be national, and so that European legislation is not very restrictive”.

Serge Hercberg is however optimistic: “there is a real change in practices, which comes from the side of consumers, who, by changing their way of acting, can really reverse the trend and put pressure on the European Union. launched by consumer associations to make the Nutri-score compulsory goes in this direction, and the maximum number of citizens must sign it, it is the only way to put the Commission up against the wall and to fight effectively against lobbies. And to conclude: “the battle is complex but things have to change. It’s a matter of public health.”

*The OpinionWay study was carried out on a sample of 1057 people representative of the French population aged 18 and over, from April 17 to 18, 2019.

» SEE ALSO: Are these applications effective against food waste?

– Watch on Figaro Live

Related Posts

French e-commerce sites shunned by foreign consumers

Comments Off on French e-commerce sites shunned by foreign consumers

Europe, financial support for French start-ups

Comments Off on Europe, financial support for French start-ups

Waste: unsold non-food items can no longer be destroyed

Comments Off on Waste: unsold non-food items can no longer be destroyed

Do not buy anything new in 2019, an association challenges the French

Comments Off on Do not buy anything new in 2019, an association challenges the French

A cyber attack targeted several French companies and institutions between 2017 and 2020

Comments Off on A cyber attack targeted several French companies and institutions between 2017 and 2020

The French mainly on the lookout for “good plans”

Comments Off on The French mainly on the lookout for “good plans”

“It is abnormal that only 1% of French law is available online”

Comments Off on “It is abnormal that only 1% of French law is available online”

A quarter of the French buy a Christmas tree

Comments Off on A quarter of the French buy a Christmas tree

Foie gras, champagne, chocolate… What the French will taste at Christmas

Comments Off on Foie gras, champagne, chocolate… What the French will taste at Christmas

Normandy landings: these products brought to the French by the GIs

Comments Off on Normandy landings: these products brought to the French by the GIs

Cybersecurity: The Bureau des Légendes helps the government raise awareness among the French

Comments Off on Cybersecurity: The Bureau des Légendes helps the government raise awareness among the French

The CNIL investigates after the leak of hundreds of thousands of French medical data

Comments Off on The CNIL investigates after the leak of hundreds of thousands of French medical data

Create Account



Log In Your Account