The Nutrition division of the French Observatory of Food Quality, in charge of questions on the food supply and food characteristics

A balanced diet is based on individual habits but also implies that the foods available to the consumer have a satisfactory nutritional composition. In order to monitor the quality of the food supply, OQALI (initially the French Observatory of Food Quality), provided for in the 2006-2010 National Programme for Nutrition and Health (PNNS 2), was created in February 2008 by the ministries of agriculture, health and consumer affairs. It is jointly implemented by ANSES and INRA.

Created in 2008, as part of the National Programme for Nutrition and Health (PNNS), OQALI's aim is to provide overall monitoring of the food supply by objectively measuring changes in nutritional quality. It is implemented conjointly by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and ANSES.

Since 2010 and the Act for modernisation of the agricultural and fishery sectors, OQALI has been part of the Food Observatory. This observatory is made up of three separate divisions: a nutrition division, a health division and a division concerned with the socio-economy of food. OQALI is the nutrition division.

Scope of action

The primary activity of OQALI is to conduct overall monitoring of the processed foods available in the food supply by measuring changes in nutritional quality (nutritional composition, labelling information). In order to ensure that the progress made benefits all consumers, the data gathered on the nutritional quality of foods is processed taking socio-economic factors into account (average price, sales volumes).

For this, OQALI:

  • gathers and analyses nutritional and socio-economic data for processed foods;
  • monitors changes in the nutritional quality of the food supply, including back data;
  • clarifies and evaluates public (and private) activities in order to provide continuous improvement in the food supply;
  • constitutes a platform for the centralisation and exchange of data between consumer organisations, industries and distributors, and the public authorities.

These analyses of the food supply are conducted by food sector (savory snacks, granola bars, mass-produced biscuits and cakes, non-alcoholic soft drinks, breakfast cereals, delicatessen meats, chocolate and chocolate-based products, fruit purees, jams, canned fruits, ice creams and sorbets, juices and nectars, crusty and soft bread products, frozen pizzas, canned prepared dishes, dessert preparations, fresh deli foods, ultra-fresh dairy products, sauces, syrups and squash, and traditionally-made bread products).

This monitoring should strengthen and perpetuate the partnership approach developed by the public authorities to incite the agrofood sectors to move in the direction of public health objectives and consumer expectations, so that the progress obtained can be of benefit to the broadest public.

The data required

To fulfil its tasks, OQALI collects:

  • the information found on product labelling (nutritional values and guidelines, claims, portions, ingredients, carbon index, etc.);
  • socio-economic factors (market share, average prices,etc.);
  • analytical data on nutritional composition.

In order to account for the efforts already made, OQALI also requires back data.

Manufacturers and distributors are key partners

Partnerships with food sector professionals are a key element in making OQALI durable  since they:

  • facilitate the gathering of data;
  • validate the methods used;
  • make it possible for each manufacturer or distributor to position themselves within the sector.

The collaborations between OQALI and the various sectors are made official in order to ensure the anonymity of data, conditions of publication when necessary, and the independence of the activities of OQALI staff.