French state food safety agency ANSES has questioned the effectiveness of four sets of nutrition labels tested in the country.

In an assessment of “new nutritional information systems” trialled last autumn, including one favoured by the French authorities and another supported by French retail body FCD – both of which focus on colour schemes – ANSES concluded they “do not appear to be a suitable response towards addressing public health issues such as excess body weight and obesity, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers”.

ANSES underlined the systems it studied “integrate without distinction and in an imprecise manner the specific needs of different groups of the population” and “do not consider the full range of variables relating to public health and food”.

The agency argued none directly take into account the priorities on the public health and food agenda, such as promoting the consumption of less sugar and salt and fewer saturated fats and more vitamins, minerals, fibre and certain fatty acids.

“The capacity of the [systems] examined to improve customer choice is therefore uncertain. Based on current scientific knowledge, ANSES concludes that the nutritional relevance of the [systems] from a public health perspective has not been proven.”

ANSES proposes a nutritional system founded on “food consumption benchmarks” adapted to the needs of different demographic groups and “the implementation of efficient measures and of a regulatory nature where appropriate,” such as reducing sugar in certain drinks and prohibiting food advertising which targets children.