Consumer group slams EU food forum as the ‘Italy show’ – POLITICO

Consumer group slams EU food forum as the ‘Italy show’ – POLITICO

November 16, 2021 Off By administrator

A major debating platform in Brussels where MEPs and industry lobbyists discuss EU food policy stands accused of being an engine for Italian interests.

The controversy over the European Food Forum comes as Brussels drafts new rules over how to display nutritional information on food labels. Italy is deeply opposed to red warning lights in the French Nutri-Score labeling scheme on food packaging, as it says these markers penalize its fatty delicacies such as olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

Amid an increasingly bitter debate over the topic, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said it will terminate its membership of the forum, which was established in 2019. As a consumer rights champion, BEUC wants the EU to choose Nutri-Score, a step politicians in Italy are clamorously resisting, arguing the EU should opt for a different way of ranking foods.

Nutri-Score is already the bloc’s most popular label, having been adopted by France, Germany and Spain among others. But skepticism is spreading fast as politicians come under pressure to defend their national specialties. Last month, France’s Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called for a review of Nutri-Score’s methodology after getting an earful from the producers of Roquefort cheese.

In Brussels, the labeling feud has created a rift in the European Food Forum, where sectoral giants like Mars, Kellogg’s, and Coca-Cola discuss the latest EU policy moves with MEPs and some civil society groups like BEUC. “This really becomes more and more an IT show,” wrote BEUC’s Director General Monique Goyens about the EFF, in an internal email seen by POLITICO and sent on October 14.

“I believe we need to step out. This little joke has lasted enough. We have no benefit from participating in this,” Goyens told her colleagues, noting the platform is welcoming more Italian MEPs.

One such MEP, Marco Dreosto, from the right wing Identity and Democracy group, wrote to POLITICO: “Mrs Goyens’ very unfortunate choice of words (calling EFF an Italian Show) does not reflect the reality and is deeply offensive for both EFF Members and Italian MEPs.”

Camille Perrin, BEUC’s senior food policy officer, confirmed BEUC will not renew its EFF membership in 2022.

BEUC’s impending departure deals a fresh blow to the credibility of the EFF, which styles itself as a neutral debating arena that avoids policy positions. However, because it operates outside the bounds of the European Parliament, transparency campaigners raised concerns about the EFF a year ago, warning the forum would give big businesses ample opportunity to lobby MEPs and heavily influence the EU’s nascent sustainable food systems agenda behind closed doors. Since then, the EFF has invited journalists to attend its events.

According to the leaked email, the immediate trigger for BEUC’s decision to leave appears to be the preparation for a panel discussion entitled “The Journey toward EU Harmonized Front of…

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