Legitimacy of Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labels: Controversy Over the Deployment of the Nutri-Score in Italy

Document Type : Original Article


1 Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN), Sorbonne Paris Nord University/INSERM U1153/INRAE U1125/CNAM, Epidemiology and Statistics Research Center, University of Paris (CRESS), Paris, France

2 Centre de Recherche Réseaux, Innovation, Territoire et Mondialisation (RITM), Université Paris-Saclay, Paris, France

3 Public Health Department, Avicenne Hospital, Assistance Publique des Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), Paris, France


Front-of-pack nutrition labels (FoPLs) aim at increasing transparency and consumers’ awareness of the nutritional composition of pre-packed food products in order to improve the nutritional quality of their food choices. Nevertheless, the legitimacy of the Nutri-Score - the FoPL officially adopted in France and several other European countries - is subject to both technical and political controversy, particularly in Italy. In this study, we investigated how and by whom the legitimacy of the Nutri-Score, recognized by several institutional authorities, could be deconstructed within a specific system of norms, values and beliefs among Italian stakeholders.

A netnography completed with qualitative interviews with eight Italian and French nutrition and public health experts were carried out to highlight the dimensions (pragmatic, normative and cognitive) in which the NutriScore’s legitimacy is being challenged among the stakeholders involved in FoPLs’ implementation in Italy. The degree of influence and the position of these stakeholders on the debate around the Nutri-Score were assessed through the Stakeholder Theory (SHT), using their respective level of power, legitimacy and urgency. Furthermore, we compared the Italian and the French contexts on the issue.

The direct implication of political parties and media outlets in framing the Italian debate around Nutri-Score as well as the high influence of corporate unions, led to a different political outcome than in France. Results also show that the deconstruction of the legitimacy of the Nutri-Score in Italy pertained mainly to its pragmatic dimension according to the Italian public health experts. Nevertheless, its two other dimensions (normative and cognitive) are also questioned by high-influence stakeholders.

Due to the limited mobilization of scientific expertise over the issue, the debate in Italy stayed centered around the “attack” of the Nutri-Score to the Italian way of life, mixing up concepts such as Made in Italy products and the Mediterranean diet.


  • epublished Author Accepted Version: January 15, 2022
  • epublished Final Version: February 20, 2022
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Volume 11, Issue 11
November 2022
Pages 2574-2587
  • Receive Date: 11 March 2021
  • Revise Date: 11 January 2022
  • Accept Date: 12 January 2022
  • First Publish Date: 15 January 2022