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

At least two-thirds of samples with protected statuses from the European Union received an "A" or "B" from Nutri-Score.
Cassoulet is a French specialty with white beans, duck leg, sausage and bacon.
May. 25, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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A sur­vey of food spe­cialty sam­ples con­ducted by the French con­sumer asso­ci­a­tion, UFC-Que Choisir, found Nutri-Score labels do not penal­ize tra­di­tional prod­ucts with pro­tected sta­tus from the European Union.

The asso­ci­a­tion ana­lyzed 588 food sam­ples derived from 310 tra­di­tional prod­ucts, many of which are cer­ti­fied with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) or Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) sta­tus from the E.U.

UFC-Que Choisir wrote in a press release that at least two-thirds of those sam­ples got good grades” from Nutri-Score.

See Also:French Draft Bill to Exclude PDO and PGI Products From Nutri-Score

Nutri-Score grades foods based on the con­tents such as fat, sugar, salt and calo­ries in 100 grams or mil­li­liters of the food. It then rates the food with a color/letter code embla­zoned on the pack­ages, from the health­i­est Green A” down to the Red E.”

In the sur­vey, 62 per­cent of the tested food prod­ucts came out with a Nutri-Score grade of A, B or C. Consumption of such foods is often encour­aged because of their supe­rior nutri­tional qual­i­ties,” UFC-Que Choisir wrote.

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There are 121 food prod­ucts clas­si­fied as A and B, with olive oil clas­si­fied as C, which is to be pre­ferred to other kinds of fat,” they added.

In the press release, UFC-Que Choisir high­lighted a few exam­ples of renowned spe­cial­ties, tra­di­tional foods which show to be very well bal­anced, such as the Flemish hochepot, the Auvergne hot­pot or the famous Castelnaudary cas­soulet.”

Other exam­ples include tra­di­tional meat and cold cuts, fruits and legumes, all receiv­ing the A and B rat­ings. Within the Nutri-Score C clas­si­fi­ca­tion, olive oils are in the com­pany of prod­ucts such as Alsatian spaet­zle pasta or pars­ley ham from Burgundy.

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The rat­ings show that Nutri-Score does not stig­ma­tize local spe­cial­ties, accord­ing to the asso­ci­a­tion.

In the release, UFC Que-Choisir empha­sized that food prod­ucts receiv­ing a D or E from Nutri-Score are not intended to den­i­grate them or pro­hibit their con­sump­tion, but only mean it is rec­om­mended to con­sume them in mod­er­ate amounts and at rea­son­able fre­quen­cies.”

The asso­ci­a­tion added that D or E‑rated prod­ucts might have their place in a bal­anced diet.

Nutri-Score inven­tor Serge Hercberg told Olive Oil Times in a July 2020 inter­view that Nutri-Score rat­ings are meant to show con­sumers the best avail­able choice of food within a given food cat­e­gory.

For exam­ple, Nutri-Score con­sid­ers olive oils the best choice in the fats cat­e­gory with its C, attribut­ing a D to other fats such as but­ter.

The asso­ci­a­tion’s sur­vey came on the heels of the ongo­ing heated debate between Nutri-Score’s pro­mot­ers and food pro­duc­ers which is inten­si­fy­ing as the European Commission’s self-imposed dead­line of December to choose a European-wide front-of-pack label approaches.

Recently, sev­eral pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tions of iconic European cheeses, includ­ing the French Roquefort PDO or the Italian Parmigiano Reggiano PDO asso­ci­a­tions have voiced their oppo­si­tion to the Nutri-Score.

They argued the French-born label­ing sys­tem does not con­sider the nutri­tional qual­i­ties of those prod­ucts and does not rate the food in quan­ti­ties that will likely be con­sumed as a daily serv­ing.

Olive oil asso­ci­a­tions and pro­duc­ers in Spain, Italy and Greece have also argued that Nutri-Score’s grade does not accu­rately por­tray the health ben­e­fits of cer­tain grades of olive oil by grad­ing them all with a C.”

Like the cheese pro­duc­ers, olive oil pro­duc­ers have also stressed how the 100 mil­li­liters sam­ple esti­mates are not real­is­tic com­pared to the actual con­sump­tion.

The oppo­si­tion to Nutri-Score’s pos­si­ble intro­duc­tion in Europe has been grow­ing since the label­ing sys­tem was adopted by sev­eral coun­tries, includ­ing France and Germany.

Italy, lead­ing the oppo­si­tion to Nutri-Score, has also pre­sented a com­pet­ing label named Nutrinform Battery, which the European Commission is cur­rently eval­u­at­ing along with sev­eral other label­ing sys­tems.

According to UFC-Que Choisir, Nutri-Score is the best tool avail­able to allow con­sumers to make a quick and informed choice when buy­ing food prod­ucts.

For that rea­son, the asso­ci­a­tion has con­firmed that the sur­vey results have been sent to the European Commission. The asso­ci­a­tion con­cluded that it warns food man­u­fac­tur­ers of their respon­si­bil­ity in a rear­guard fight to main­tain opac­ity on unbal­anced foods.”



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