For 7 out of 10 processed products, the origin of the ingredients remains unknown

For 7 out of 10 processed products, the origin of the ingredients remains unknown

According to a study by UFC-Que Choisir, the origin of the ingredients in prepared dishes remains, to date, very unclear or completely unknown. Faced with this observation, the consumer association is calling for mandatory labeling of the origin of ingredients for this type of food.

In a survey published this Thursday, March 28, UFC-Que Choisir reports that the origin of 69% of the ingredients in prepared dishes is unknown.

Vague mentions for most processed foods

Biscuits, chips, nuggets, powdered soups, sugary cereals… processed or ultra-processed foods are not very good for your health. A recent study even recently linked them to more than thirty health problems. But what we know less, however, is that the origin of the raw foods used in their manufacture… is mostly unknown.

For 69% of the ingredients we examined, opacity reigns over their origin: 47% of them have no origin mentioned and 22% a purely generic origin with vague statements such as “EU origin” or “non EU“, reveal the experts from UFC-Que Choisir magazine. A shame when we know that for more than 8 out of 10 French people, it is important to know the origin of the food they consume. In a study published this Thursday, March 28, UFC-Que Choisir even reported that 51% of French people consider this parameter to be the most important, even before the price.

How to explain such a situation? At present, it is mainly raw (unprocessed) food products which are subject to mandatory information on geographical origin (meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, honey, etc.), specifies the site of the Ministry of the Economy.

Except that we must not forget that ready-made meals, already mixed purees, biscuits and all other processed food products also contain raw ingredients which were used in their manufacture. In their case, we don’t really know where they come from. Consumers generally have to make do with an indication such as “EU origin” or “Non-EU”.

It is therefore a “flaw”, into which many industrial giants are falling. Cereals and vegetables, “food category that has never been subject to a labeling requirement” benefit the most from the situation, with 84% of ingredients without a marked origin, followed by poultry (64%), pork (38%) and beef (32%).

An observation made after the analysis of “243 processed foods from major brands“, underlines the investigation.

Differences between brands

Another observation revealed by the study: differences in transparency are observed depending on the brand, for products of the same ranges and similar compositions. Thus, among the 14 brands analyzed by UFC-Que Choisir, “Marie gives the precise origin of more than 8 out of 10 ingredients for the prepared dishes in our sample, whereas Fleury Michon only does so for almost one out of 5 ingredients.“.

In the same way, if Bonduelle appears to be a “fairly good student” by specifying the origin of 7 out of ten vegetables, Cassegrain only does so for less than one out of ten vegetables.

This demonstrates that opacity is not due, as some manufacturers claim, to an inevitable variability in the origins of ingredients but rather to supply policies specific to each brand.“, deplores the magazine.

A study published in 2021 in the European Journal of Nutrition indicated that processed foods represented 31% of our plate. There would therefore be logic in knowing the origin of the foods that compose them.

NO to diets, YES to WW!

Can the Origine-Info logo really change the situation?

On March 13, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs launched an initiative for better transparency with the idea of ​​a logo stamped Origine-Info. A collective initiative bringing together food manufacturers as well as distributors and consumer associations who are working to develop specifications for an experiment starting next summer.

The problem, according to UFC-Que Choisir, is that there is no obligation for the actors concerned to participate. In other words, this future logo will only appear at the discretion of the brands.

The future display will have no effect if it remains voluntary, as the example of beef proves: the obligation to label meat ingredients applied in 2017 had then strongly contributed to transparency, but the abandonment of this measure in 2021 has unfortunately increased the opacity on beef products which has increased from 25% in 2018 to 32% today“, illustrates the consumer defense association.

The UFC is therefore demanding that this new logo not only be mandatory, but also visible on the front of the packaging.