Change for the Nutri-Score, with improved efficiency as a result. Such is the recent announcement by the Public Health Agency France, stating that seven European countries* have decided to adopt changes with regard to the algorithm of this logo affixed on the front of packaging which informs about the nutritional quality of products in a simplified form. Indeed, since its launch in February 2021, the scientific committee made up of independent experts has been evaluating the Nutri-Score algorithm on behalf of the steering committee. If the latter considers that the current algorithm is effective, it nevertheless ” identified priority areas to strengthen the effectiveness of the Nutri-Score algorithm based on solid scientific evidence and stakeholder requests. “, notes Public Health France. A report was therefore published in July 2022 proposing several modifications to the algorithm for solid foods.
The aim: to improve the Nutri-Score’s ability to discriminate the nutritional quality of products within certain food groups, in better consistency with the main dietary recommendations of the countries that apply the Nutri-Score. What food group is it? Fats including vegetable oils, fish and seafood, cereal products and especially bread, as well as dairy products including cheeses. While beverages have also been identified as a food group likely to be subject to algorithm evolution, “ the relevant scientific committee proposals will be submitted at the end of 2022. “, indicates for its part the Ministry of Health. This evolution of the Nutri-Score algorithm therefore makes it possible to achieve several main objectives that are more consistent with official health food recommendations.
Cereal and sweet products, vegetable oils… changes expected
As for oily fish, for example, the goal is to arrive at a better classification of the latter to help the consumer identify these products as healthy foods: oily fish without added salt or oil will be rated better and will mainly classify in categories A and B of the Nutri-Score. Very sweet products, such as sugary breakfast cereals, will be rated more severely. Thereby, “ they will no longer be able to achieve an A grade but will instead achieve a C grade on average. “Summarizes the CLCV **, which specifies that dairy products with added sugar (yogurts with sweetened fruits for example) could be less well noted than what they are currently. Another classification set to change over the next few months is that of cereal products. This will involve improving the differentiation between whole foods rich in fibre, thanks to the presence of the bran and germ of their grains, and so-called “refined” or white foods which therefore contain less fibre.
In concrete terms, wholemeal bread and rice will be rated higher than white bread and rice, for example, and this same objective of differentiation will also apply to cheeses: those with a pressed paste such as Emmental will be able to achieve a C rating (compared to D currently ) due to their low salt and high calcium content. Vegetable oils less rich in saturated fats should benefit from a better classification, knowing that the content of saturated fatty acids in oils and fats will be better taken into account. According to the CLCV, vegetable oils with low levels of saturated fatty acids (olive, rapeseed, walnuts, oleic sunflower oil) will now be classified B (against C currently), while sunflower oil goes to C (D currently ) and that margarines retain their C or D rating and butter E. The organization also specifies that red meat and processed meat will receive lower Nutri-Score ratings overall than poultry and fish.
More than 800 French companies use the Nutri-Score
But with nuances however, namely that a hamburger with 5% fat can always obtain a better score than highly processed poultry products, such as chicken nuggets for example. A modification aligns with the government recommendation, updated in 2019, to reduce the consumption of red meat. This recommends in particular to favor poultry and limit meat (pork, beef, veal, mutton, lamb and offal) to 500 g per week (i.e. approximately 3 to 4 steaks), to limit the consumption of charcuterie to 150 g per week (i.e. about 3 slices of white ham) and to alternate meat, poultry, fish, eggs and pulses during the week. Finally, the last change concerns so-called “ready-to-eat” prepared products such as pizzas, which will obtain overall lower ratings, going on average from classes AB to classes BC or even D for certain categories of products such as pizzas.
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These modifications were voted on on July 26, 2022 by the seven countries involved in the system, but the implementation of the new Nutri-Score algorithm in countries that have already implemented the logo will only be established. once the complete algorithm has been adopted by the steering committee. ” From the date of entry into force of the new algorithm, a sufficiently long period will be left to the operators to allow the implementation of the logo. In order to facilitate this deployment, support for operators will be provided in the various countries involved. “, concludes the Ministry of Health. Why this change after four years of application on supermarket shelves, on a voluntary basis? For many, this food labeling system had several limitations, including the fact that its application based on a 5-color scale (from dark green to dark orange) associated with letters ranging from A to E is focused on quantitative aspects rather than product quality.
The fact remains that four years after its official launch in France, the Nutri-Score enjoys wide visibility with, as of January 31, 2022, 875 companies in France having chosen to affix it to their products. In July 2021, a study conducted by Santé Publique France with the aim of better understanding its notoriety among adults showed that among individuals who knew the logo: 45% of them indicated that it could make them choose a product with a better score rather than another with a lower score within the same department, and 44% have them limit the purchase of products with lower scores. On a European scale, several organizations have even joined forces to ask the European Parliament to adopt Nutri-Score as the mandatory logo for Europe from the year 2023. It is for this purpose that this collective, currently composed of 22 scientific associations and 8 consumer/patient/NGO associations, launched a citizens’ petition last May.
*Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland
**Consumption Housing Living environment or CLCV