France, an eco-score on the label to communicate the environmental impact of food

0
12

In France comes theeco-score, a synthetic Front of Pack (FOP) label information to communicate the environmental impact of foods on the shelf. Its adoption by app managers such as Yuka could theoretically facilitate sustainable consumption choices by suggesting alternatives with a smaller carbon footprint.

However, there appears to be a serious risk of underestimating organic production, which today represents the only system that can guarantee effective respect for ecosystems, animal welfare and consumer health on the basis of cogent and uniform regulations.

A 5-color eco-score

A 5-tiered logo (colors and letters), such as that of NutriScore, is used in theeco-score to distinguish at a glance foods made with less consumption of resources (water, soil), emissions (including transportation-related) and pollutants (e.g., pesticides), respecting biodiversity, etc.

The initiative was launched by ECO2, the same company that launched the ethical sustainable cooking app. A number of operators committed to sustainable production and consumption (#SDG12) and proper consumer information have already joined. These include Yuka, the app that provides instant judgment on nutritional profile and the presence of ‘suspect’ additives, with a favor toward organic products. (1)

Eco-score, government criteria

The summary judgment provided by theeco-score is based on several criteria. First on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of food, performed by the French Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME, Agence de la transition écologique). Based on theeco-score criterion introduced on the label by the French law against waste (Law 105/2020), starting in 2021, ADEME has already evaluated 2500 products with the Agrybalyse project).

LCA assessment measures the impact of food from field to table, also taking into account its consumption patterns. However, the Agrybalyse standard is criticized by farmers, environmentalists and consumers for the inadequacy of its criteria, which paradoxically can lead to favoring intensive farming over agroecology. (2)

Eco-score, the additional criteria

ECO2’seco-score goes beyond just the LCA criterion adopted in the Agrybalyse model. In fact, the base score is subjected to corrective criteria, with a bonus/malus approach, which consider:

– The origin of each ingredient(bonus from 0 to 15 points),

– The certification of the production method (10 to 20 points), (3)

– the environmental impact of packaging, with penalties if oversized relative to content, not reusable and not recyclable(malus from 0 to 15 points),

– The impact on biodiversity. For products related to overfishing or deforestation (e.g., palm oil, GMO soybeans), a malus of (only) 10 points applies.

The sustainable recipes

The tool is also applied to recipes and dishes served in restaurants. In this case, further evaluation involves the seasonality of ingredients, which is preferable because it is less impactful than greenhouse crops.

With theeco-score, French consumers take another step forward in gaining useful tools to make informed choices for sustainable spending. Below the Alps, however, ça va sans dir, all is silent.

Marta Strinati

Notes

1) The voluntary eco-score is already adopted in France by Yuka, Open Food Facts (240 thousand products in the database), food delivery chain FoodChéri, recipe app Frigo Magic, and ready meal company Seazon, among others. Organic ecommerce site La Fourche has adopted it for some of its branded products

2) Confédération paysanne. Aberrant, l’affichage environnemental “Ecoscore” risque de promouvoir l’agriculture intensive. 17.12.20, http://www.confederationpaysanne.fr/actu.php?id=10937

3) Que Choisir. Affichage environnemental. L’Ecoscore risque de promouvoir l’agriculture intensive. 17.12.20, https://www.quechoisir.org/action-ufc-que-choisir-affichage-environnemental-l-ecoscore-risque-de-promouvoir-l-agriculture-intensive-n86711/

4) Certification of the production method varies with the certifier. If provided by Demeter, Nature & Progrès or Bio Coherence +20 points, if EU Bio or AB(Agricolture biologique) +15 points, if HVE, UTZ, Rainforeste Alliance, Fairtrade, Bleu Blanc Coeur, Label Rouge, ASC Aqua and MSC +10 points

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".