The Nutrition Department of the French Observatory of Food Quality (OQALI)
The Nutrition Department of the French Observatory of Food Quality is responsible for monitoring the nutritional quality of the food supply.
A balanced diet is achieved through personal habits but also requires that the foods on offer to consumers have a satisfactory nutritional composition. To monitor the quality of the food supply, a food quality observatory (Oqali), recommended by the second national nutrition and health plan for 2006-2010 (PNNS 2) was set up by the Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Consumer Affairs in February 2008. It is being run jointly by ANSES and INRA.
Oqali was set up in 2008 following the recommendation of the national nutrition and health plan (PNNS) to monitor the whole food supply by measuring changes in the nutritional quality of food in an objective way.
It is run jointly by INRA (the French National Agricultural Research Institute) and ANSES.
Since the 2010 Act for modernising agriculture and fishing, Oqali has been integrated into the French Observatory of Food Quality which has three distinct departments: for nutrition, health, and food sociology and economics. Oqali is the nutrition department.
Oqali's main assignment is overall monitoring of the supply of processed food being offered to consumers; it does this by measuring changes in the nutritional quality (nutritional composition and labelling information). In order to ensure that the progress made benefits all consumers, the data collected on the nutritional quality of food are processed while taking into account the socio-economic parameters (average prices, sales volumes).
To this end, Oqali:
- gathers and analyses nutritional and socio-economic data on processed foods;
- monitors changes in the nutritional quality of food on offer, including retrospectively;
- provides input for public (and private) interventions in order to continuously improve the food supply;
- acts as a platform to centralise and exchange data with consumer associations, manufacturers, distributors and public authorities
These analyses of the food supply are done by sector (aperitif snacks, cereal bars, industrial biscuits and cakes, non-alcoholic beverages, breakfast cereals, delicatessen meats, chocolates and chocolate-based products, stewed fruits, jams, fruit preserves, ice cream and sorbets, fruit juice and nectar, bread products and pastry, frozen pizzas, canned pre-cooked dishes, dessert mixes, fresh delicatessen products, ultra-fresh dairy products, hot sauces and concentrated syrups and beverages for diluting and small-scale bakery products).
The monitoring should reinforce the long-term partnerships developed by public authorities to encourage Agro-food sectors to set public health objectives and meet consumer expectations so that the general public benefits.
To fulfil its missions, Oqali collects
- all of the information shown on product labels (nutritional values and markers, claims, portions, ingredients, carbon index, etc);
- socio-economic parameters (market shares, average prices, etc);
- analytical data of nutritional composition.
To gain a perspective of the effort that has already been made, Oqali also needs historical data.
Manufacturers and distributors, essential partners
It is essential for Oqali to work jointly and on a long-term basis with professionals in all food sectors. This enables it to:
- gather information more easily,
- validate the methodologies used,
- enable each manufacturer and/or distributor to position itself within its market sector.
The collaboration between Oqali and the different sectors is formalised to ensure that the data and possible dissemination conditions are kept anonymous while at the same time protecting the independence of Oqali operators.