The recently-installed government in Portugal is halting the introduction of Nutri-Score front-of-pack labels in the country.

Lisbon’s former socialist government proposed on 5 April to adopt the traffic light labelling system, which ranks products based on their nutritional value. Products are labelled against a ranking system, with A (green) being the best and E (red) the worst.

However, the recently-installed Democratic Alliance centre-right government, which won the country’s general elections three months ago, has questioned its predecessor’s move.

A decree published by Portugal’s Agriculture Ministry on Tuesday (11 June), seen by Just Drinks, questioned its legality. The government argued the General Directorate of Food and Veterinary (DGAV), which it said is responsible for food labelling, had not been consulted before the decision was taken.

The decree said: “It is the responsibility of the DGAV to promote the development of national regulations in the food sector, in particular on the characteristics/marketing standards, manufacturing processes and labelling of foodstuffs.”

Suggesting fundamental concerns with the scheme, it added: “The {European Parliament] regulation considers that legislation on food information should be sufficiently flexible, while establishing that food information provided voluntarily must not mislead the consumer, nor be ambiguous or confusing for the consumer.”

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It said the DGAV had expressed “reservations” about Nutri-Score, which it believes could lead to “confusing classifications”.

Nutri-Score, created in France in 2017, has been implemented in a number of European countries, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, but it has not yet been given the green light at EU level. Some EU members, notably Italy, have voiced their opposition to the scheme.

In October, it was revealed a deadline to recommend a single EU nutrition labelling scheme for food products by the end of the year was unlikely to be met and that Nutri-Score, probably the best known of the voluntary front-of-pack labelling schemes used in Europe, would not be proposed as the scheme of choice.

Some reports suggested the decision on which scheme to recommend had been put back to the second quarter of 2024, after the European Parliament elections which have just been held.