Food Health App Receives Green Light in Italy After Curtailing Nutri-Score Influence

The Yuka app will lower the importance of a food item’s Nutri-Score ranking and give more emphasis to micronutrients and additives.
Photo: Yuka
Aug. 3, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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Yuka, a food rat­ing and rec­om­men­da­tion mobile appli­ca­tion, has been approved by Italy’s mar­ket watch­dog after chang­ing how it rec­om­mends food items to con­sumers.

The Italian Antitrust Agency (AGCM) has accepted a long list of mod­i­fi­ca­tions pro­posed by the app that decou­ples its rec­om­men­da­tions from the food items’ Nutri-Score rat­ing.

Yuka’s cre­ators say the app is designed to help con­sumers iden­tify healthy food choices in a dozen coun­tries, includ­ing the United States, Australia, Spain, France and Italy.

See Also:Nutri-Score Does Not Penalize Traditional Food Specialties, Survey Finds

Last November, the AGCM announced an inves­ti­ga­tion into the mobile app. The agency cited its sim­i­lar­i­ties to Nutri-Score, a food rat­ing sys­tem that has come under immense scrutiny in Italy, and con­cerns that it may be dis­rup­tive to some agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers.

Confagricoltura, a farm­ers’ and pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, warned that Yuka pushed con­sumers away from cer­tain bad” foods and toward other good” foods based on their Nutri-Score rat­ing. They added that these rec­om­men­da­tions would severely affect pro­duc­ers of tra­di­tional Italian food spe­cial­ties.

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Nutri-Score is a front-of-pack-label derived from an algo­rithm that grades pack­aged food items with a five-col­or/let­ter scheme, from the health­i­est Green A to the least healthy Red E.

Nutri-Score rat­ings are deter­mined by sugar, salt and fat con­tent per 100 gram or mil­li­liter serv­ing.

Olive oil pro­duc­ers across Europe crit­i­cize the Yellow‑C rat­ing attrib­uted to all grades of olive oil, argu­ing the health ben­e­fits of its micronu­tri­ents are ignored.

While its pro­po­nents argue that Nutri-Score helps con­sumers select the health­i­est option among spe­cific food cat­e­gories (such as edi­ble oils), Yuka offers com­par­i­son tools and buy­ing tips on the spot.

To meet the AGCM’s require­ments, Yuka updated its poli­cies and the infor­ma­tion it pro­vides to users.

It reduced the weight given to Nutri-Score rat­ings in the Italian ver­sion of the app and now con­sid­ers a food’s micronu­tri­ent con­tent, such as polyphe­nols, and addi­tives.

As a result of the changes, the app’s cre­ators said sugar-free soft drinks would receive a lower rank­ing than their Light-green‑B Nutri-Score rat­ing.

The app pro­duc­ers added that Nutri-Score’s rat­ings were now extrap­o­lated into a numer­i­cal score from zero to 100.

After these changes, extra vir­gin olive oil received a score of 75. Organic extra vir­gin olive oil is rated at 85.

The mobile app was also mod­i­fied to remove the direct links to spe­cific stud­ies con­ducted on food label­ing in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, which the AGCM said may be viewed as endorse­ments of Yuka rat­ings.

Yuka was also required to warn con­sumers in Italy that diet is only one com­po­nent of a healthy lifestyle, along with exer­cise, hygiene, envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, smok­ing, stress and alco­hol and drug use.

The score awarded by the app rep­re­sents, there­fore, a mere opin­ion of the pub­lisher based on avail­able infor­ma­tion on the food prod­uct,” its cre­ators said.



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