Carrefour called the Brazilian Food Association (Abia) a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” after the organization filed a complaint against the multinational corporation with the National Secretariat of Consumers (Senacon). The expression was used in legal proceedings.
Abia’s complaint stemmed from the Nutri Escolha app, promoted by Carrefour since last July, which ranks products sold online as more or less healthy.
In a rare exchange of public barbs, Carrefour claimed that in the lawsuit against the app, Abia disguised itself as a consumer advocate to actually protect the interests of its partners.
The multinational also accused Abia of manipulating images to mislead the National Secretariat for Consumer Protection (Senacon) and of delaying the implementation of new front labeling legislation in Brazil.
In a note sent to UOL, Abia denied any manipulation:
“Abia does not comment on lawsuits. However, the accusation of manipulation is absolutely false, since the images supporting the complaint were taken from the network’s own website and application, they are duly registered in the notary’s office, in notary protocols, and are contained in the administrative process,” the note says.
In the lawsuit, Abia also criticized Carrefour for promoting “food manichaeism” and “deceiving and misleading the consumer” by distributing the app.
In a memo sent to Joio, Carrefour defended Nutri Escolha, saying the app aims to allow “consumers to shop more consciously by making it easier for them to make food choices.”
The app promises a healthy choice
The Nutri Choice app was launched by Carrefour in July 2021 with the promise of providing consumers with healthier and cheaper choices.
The app uses the Nutri Score method, created in France, the retailer’s country of origin, and voluntarily used by food manufacturers in that country.
Nutri Score records the percentages of canola oil, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and vegetables to give positive scores to foods, and sugar, salt, and fat to check for negative scores.
In sum, the points give a note from “la” to “mi”. The closer to “A”, the healthier. This model was even defended during the Anvisa discussion of the new frontal labeling in Brazil by the Brazilian Association of Nutritionists, but in the end it was bypassed.
In addition to the rating, the Carrefour app also offers users “healthier” or cheaper alternatives in the same category as the product being analyzed.
“Marketing and advertising tool”
Shortly after the app’s debut, Abia filed a complaint with Senacon, calling Nutri Escolha a “marketing and advertising tool.”
In the complaint, the organization alleged that Nutri Escolha gave different ratings to products with a similar nutritional profile and that the app favored Carrefour-branded products, offering healthier and cheaper options.
Private label products are at the center of a longstanding global arm wrestling competition between retailers and industry; among other things, manufacturers claim that chains use these products to cut prices and copy products that are expensive to develop.
According to Carrefour, 15.3% of its total net food income comes from private label products, which cost an average of 30% less than the leading brands in the market.
In 2020, the retail multinational sold 2,769 self-branded food products in Brazil – 600 of which were launched this year alone.
In a complaint filed with Senacon, Abia also argued that Nutri Escolha would be in conflict with the front labeling system, which was approved by Anvisa in 2020 and will come into effect from October of this year.
The rule prohibits the display of other labeling patterns on food packaging, precisely so that conflicting information does not mislead the consumer.
Abia also complained that Carrefour required sensitive business data from its suppliers, assuming they would provide the app, without being transparent about the use of the information provided.
The app has been suspended
Asked to speak out, Carrefour pointed to a “conflict of interest” in Abia’s complaint and hinted that the association would indeed be unhappy with the low ratings it receives for processed products made by its members.
The company was able to demonstrate that some of its private label products actually received lower ratings than others in the same categories, and stated that no product high in critical ingredients (salt, fat, and sugar) received a rating. A and B. from the application. .
In a very quick decision, 25 days after the complaint was filed, Senacon determined the suspension of the application, realizing that Nutri Escolha was misleading the consumer and violating the client’s right to information.
In the decision, Deputy Director of the Department of Consumer Protection and Consumer Protection Fernando Moes argued that the app’s algorithm was not very transparent and that by allowing online purchases, the app would override the Nutri Score method with a magnifying glass. (label warning about harmful products). Thus, users will not even be able to see the high nutrient frontal warnings provided by the Anvisa-approved labeling system.
“[O aplicativo] influences the current regulatory system and assumes regulatory competence that it does not have, ”Mösch wrote in the decision.
“Wolf in sheep’s clothing”
Echoing arguments made at Senacon, the company called Abia “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” The expression appears in a writ filed by Carrefour in the 22nd Civil Court of the Judicial Section of the Federal District TRF1 last August.
Carrefour also said the organization sued Anvisa’s first attempt to create warnings for foods high in sodium, sugar and fat in 2010.
At that time Anvisa was trying – via RDC [resolução de diretoria colegiada] 24/2010 – Make ads for foods high in critical ingredients display messages warning about the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
But the initiative was legally banned by Abia, who argued that Anviza did not have the right to make laws on this issue.
After a decision in favor of Carrefour in the second instance of the Federal Court, NutriEscolha remains on the air.