A worker moves wheels of Stilton blue cheese in a refrigerated container at the Hartington Creamery near Matlock in the Derbyshire Dales on January 26, 2021 – The Hartington Creamery in Derbyshire had started to make inroads into selling cheese direct to EU consumers, sales worth £180,000 last year, but since Brexit, has had to stop as they say that the requirement of a vet issued health certificate costing £180 makes shipping to the EU commercially and practically impossible. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

TOULOUSE, France — Makers of France’s famed Roquefort cheese are demanding a change to an increasingly widespread food labeling system that classes their pungent but popular products as being of poor nutritional value.

The Nutri-Score system, invented in France and adopted by some other European countries, ranks food products on a color-coded scale of A to E based on their nutritional value.

Roquefort, a tangy blue cheese from southwest France, is always ranked at the bottom — either at D or E — putting it on a par with sugary drinks and crisps.

With the government considering making the Nutri-Score mandatory next year, they are now calling for an exemption, echoing concerns in other French cheese-making regions.

“It’s paradoxical. There are ultra-processed industrial products with preservatives in them that can get an A or B, but our local and very natural products are stigmatized,” Sebastien Vignette, head of the Roquefort Confederation told a press conference on Monday.

He called the scoring system “a simplistic logo”.

The campaign has the support of local MP Stephane Mazars, who represents the Aveyron area where all Roquefort cheese is aged in limestone caves until it develops its characteristic blue mold.

“The desire to be transparent with the consumer must be rational and based on common sense,” he said.

Around 7,000 tons of Roquefort are sold each year, with around a quarter sold overseas.

The Nutri-Score system is a voluntary labeling system adopted by France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, but its rollout to the whole of the European Union has been contested by some countries, notably Italy.

Backed as a tool to tackle obesity and other dietary problems, it rates food products based on their levels of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats to discourage consumers from eating too much.

For Vignette and other Roquefort makers, there “isn’t a problem of excessive consumption of cheese in France”.


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