`Nutri-Score Changed Food Formulas in France, Researchers Find - Olive Oil Times

Nutri-Score Changed Food Formulas in France, Researchers Find

By Paolo DeAndreis
Apr. 24, 2024 17:13 UTC

Seven years after its intro­duc­tion in France, new research sug­gests that Nutri-Score has sig­nif­i­cantly altered the com­po­si­tion and pack­ag­ing of food prod­ucts.

A new study pub­lished in the European Review of Agricultural Economics pro­vides evi­dence that food pro­duc­ers are chang­ing their prod­ucts to secure higher rat­ings from the front-of-pack food label­ing sys­tem.

This sci­en­tific study is the first to demon­strate the impact of Nutri-Score on the nutri­tional com­po­si­tion of food prod­ucts fol­low­ing its national-level intro­duc­tion.- Serge Hercberg, founder, Nutri-Score

Our paper ana­lyzes the changes to the nutri­tional val­ues of food,” said Christoph Bauner, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts and co-author of the study. We do not test the mech­a­nism that causes these changes. So, from a strict sta­tis­ti­cal sense, we can­not say that Nutri-Score’s impact on con­sumer choices is the dri­ving fac­tor.”

Practically, I believe it is very dif­fi­cult to come up with another plau­si­ble mech­a­nism that would lead to the observed results,” he added. There is lit­er­a­ture sug­gest­ing that con­sumers are more likely to opt for prod­ucts that score bet­ter on Nutri-Score, and the link to pro­ducer strate­gies is straight­for­ward.”

See Also:New Research Rekindles Debate on Nutri-Score’s Effectiveness

Previous research has shown that con­sumers favor prod­ucts with higher Nutri-Score rat­ings.

Nutri-Score is a traf­fic-light-style FOPL that uses a com­bi­na­tion of five coor­di­nated col­ors and let­ters to rate how healthy a pack­aged food item is based on its fat, sugar, salt and calo­rie con­tent per 100-gram or mil­li­liter serv­ing. The Green A” indi­cates the health­i­est option, and Red E” denotes the least healthy.

This sci­en­tific study is the first to demon­strate the impact of Nutri-Score on the nutri­tional com­po­si­tion of food prod­ucts fol­low­ing its national-level intro­duc­tion,” said Serge Hercberg, a pro­fes­sor of nutri­tion at Sorbonne Paris North University and founder of Nutri-Score.

The study com­pared the nutri­tional pro­files and con­tents of selected food prod­ucts between 2014 and 2021.

Our analy­sis shows a sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in Nutri-Scores of new prod­ucts, imply­ing that the over­all prod­uct com­po­si­tion became health­ier after the Nutri-Score intro­duc­tion,” the researchers wrote.

Hercberg empha­sized that the study observed a shift toward health­ier items. “‘Conversely, this trend was not observed in Italy or the United Kingdom, two coun­tries that have not adopted Nutri-Score,” he said.

Another study recently pub­lished by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that dis­play­ing Nutri-Score rat­ings in food adver­tise­ments can influ­ence con­sumer choices.

All sci­en­tific find­ings on Nutri-Score’s impact con­firm that this straight­for­ward trans­parency tool is cru­cial in help­ing con­sumers make health­ier food choices and encour­ag­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers to enhance the nutri­tional qual­ity of their prod­ucts,” Hercberg said.

Bauner noted that while the report focuses solely on the French mar­ket, Nutri-Score’s reach expands. Since iden­ti­cal food prod­ucts are often mar­keted in mul­ti­ple coun­tries, this may lead to added incen­tives for pro­duc­ers to improve their prod­ucts’ nutri­tional pro­files,” he said.

However, Bauner added that pub­lish­ing Nutri-Score labels on a prod­uct is still vol­un­tary in France and that by the end of the study period, only about 50 per­cent of prod­ucts in France fea­tured one.

If this per­cent­age increases, then the incen­tives would apply to more prod­ucts,” he said. The per­cent­age of prod­ucts dis­play­ing Nutri-Score could increase, for exam­ple, if Nutri-Score becomes manda­tory or if con­sumers inter­pret the lack of the Nutri-Score label as evi­dence of an unhealthy prod­uct and this becomes evi­dent to pro­duc­ers.”

Bauner empha­sized that the study results should not be extrap­o­lated to other label­ing sys­tems.


However, sim­i­lar impacts have been demon­strated for other front-of-pack­age labels, par­tic­u­larly for the manda­tory warn­ing labels in Chile,” he said. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that just any label­ing sys­tem will gen­er­ate sim­i­lar results as the system’s specifics will influ­ence the under­ly­ing incen­tives.”

Interest in Nutri-Score’s impact on food is grow­ing across Europe. On April 4th, Portugal for­mally intro­duced Nutri-Score.

The deci­sion allows pro­duc­ers and retail­ers to adopt Nutri-Score vol­un­tar­ily. According to the Portuguese gov­ern­ment, intro­duc­ing the Nutri-Score is a pub­lic health mea­sure that pro­motes healthy nutri­tion.

Portugal now joins the grow­ing list of European coun­tries that have adopted Nutri-Score, includ­ing France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.

However, a size­able bloc of coun­tries, includ­ing Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Latvia and Romania, is also opposed to Nutri-Score.

Italy has spear­headed the effort to oppose the European-wide adop­tion of the FOPL and instead pro­posed the locally devised Nutrinform Battery.

Instead of rat­ing indi­vid­ual food items, Nutrinform Battery pairs food com­po­si­tion with sug­gested serv­ings. Its back­ers argue that this approach pro­motes healthy dietary habits with­out pre­scrib­ing and pro­hibit­ing spe­cific food items.

The pro­longed and intense debate over adopt­ing a manda­tory E.U.-wide front-of-pack­age label, for which Nutri-Score was long viewed as the poten­tial front-run­ner, has slowed sig­nif­i­cantly ahead of this year’s European elec­tions.

Nutri-Score advo­cates hope the new European par­lia­ment and com­mis­sion will reju­ve­nate efforts regard­ing the front-of-pack­age label­ing ini­tia­tive.


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