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Belgian Nutri-Score legislation (draft) focuses on voluntary character


On 28 September 2018, Belgium informed the European Commission on its draft ‘Royal Decree on the use of the Nutri-Score logo’, under the 2015/1535 Directive notification procedure. This procedure allows for feedback from the Commission and other Member states and requires a ‘standstill’ of this draft legislation until the notification procedure is completed (29 March 2019). After completion, the Belgian Council of State will issue an advice on the legal aspects of the draft Royal Decree. The draft, consequently, still has some way to go before becoming binding legislation, but the current text does give some interesting insights in the proposed design of the Nutri-Score’s implementation in Belgium.

For the readers that have missed the media coverage on the Nutri-Score: this score is essentially based on a calculation table, developed by the Oxford University, in which different nutritional values and contents are converted into one five-scale score from A (healthy) to E (unhealthy). The system bears resemblance to the “food profiles” as provided by the Food Claims Regulation. These profiles were never developed because of reported difficulties in scientifically substantiating a product-based profile without taking into account its position within the global diet.

The draft text for the Belgian Nutri-Score (consult it here in any of the EU languages) starts from an important principle: voluntary use. Operators (as defined in Regulation 1787/2002) may decide for themselves whether they place the score on their products or not. However, placing the score on only one product in the operator’s gamma is not an option: the commitment to use the Nutri-Score automatically applies to all of the foods categories the operator places on the market (or to none, if the operator decides not to use the label).

The Nutri-Score label will constitute (as is the case in France) a trademarked logo that will be managed by the FPS Public Health, Safety of the Food Chain and Environment. Once the Royal Decree enters into force, the FPS will publish regulations on the use of the logo. The draft text, however, appears to only allow for display of the logo on the packaging itself, seemingly excluding use of the Nutri-Score in advertisements.

Anticipating the entry into force of the text, several operators have already started displaying the logo. Belgium has not yet trademarked its label. Even though the legislation adopting the official requirements for the calculation of the score is not yet official, operators cannot advertise a Nutri-Score that is factually inconsistent with the product. This would be contrary to the Misleading Advertising Directive.