Moroccan Study Identifies Nutri-Score As Most Effective Among Five Popular Food Labels

Researchers compared the front-of-pack label with four other standard labels and found Nutri-Score to be the best at helping local consumers make healthier food choices.
May. 13, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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A team of Moroccan researchers said con­sumers could ben­e­fit from intro­duc­ing a front-of-pack label (FOPL) on the food items sold in super­mar­kets.

According to a newly pub­lished study that inves­ti­gated the effi­cacy of five FOPLs, Nutri-Score proved to be the best at help­ing local con­sumers make health­ier food choices.

Nutri-Score was ranked as the pre­ferred label by 65 per­cent of the par­tic­i­pants. The per­cent­age of par­tic­i­pants who improved their food choice (with Nutri-Score) was higher than those who wors­ened it.- Moroccan researchers, 

The French-born label­ing sys­tem clas­si­fies food with a com­bi­na­tion of col­ors and let­ters, from the health­i­est Green A” down to the Red E.” Olive oil is rated as a Yellow C.”

Researchers from the Ibn Tofail University, in Kenitra, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Moroccan Ministry of Health ana­lyzed con­sumers’ reac­tions to the dif­fer­ent FOPLs, all of which are already used in many coun­tries world­wide.

See Also: Second European Parliament Committee Votes to Exclude Olive Oil From Nutri-Score

The researchers put the Health Star Rating, Health warn­ing, Reference Intakes, Multiple Traffic Light and Nutri-Score FOPLs to test to under­stand how they impacted con­sumers’ deci­sion-mak­ing abil­ity.

The research involved 814 indi­vid­u­als, equally divided among men and women. All par­tic­i­pants were recruited for the study in super­mar­kets and were cho­sen from dif­fer­ent age groups and socioe­co­nomic back­grounds.

Scientists then asked the par­tic­i­pants to choose their pre­ferred food from dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories, such as yogurts, cold cuts and bis­cuits.

This choice was based on the fact that these are processed foods among the most con­sumed by the Moroccan pop­u­la­tion and cor­re­spond­ing to prod­ucts whose nutri­tional com­po­si­tion varies greatly,” the sci­en­tists said.

Participants had to choose among three prod­ucts with dif­fer­ent nutri­tional pro­files and were then asked to rank them accord­ing to their nutri­tional qual­ity. They per­formed these tasks with­out a vis­i­ble nutri­tional label. Afterward, they were asked to accom­plish the same task with one of the five nutri­tional labels vis­i­ble on the food pack­ages.

Next, the full set of tested labels was pre­sented to the par­tic­i­pants who were asked a series of ques­tions regard­ing their pref­er­ences, the attrac­tive­ness of the labels, their per­cep­tions, inten­tion to use and the trust­wor­thi­ness placed in the labels,” the researchers said.

The results showed that Nutri-Score was asso­ci­ated with a greater abil­ity to clas­sify cor­rectly foods based on their nutri­tional qual­ity.

Concerning the per­cep­tion of labels, Nutri-Score is the label that received the high­est num­ber of pos­i­tive responses, whether con­cern­ing the ease of being spot­ted (82 per­cent), under­stood (74 per­cent) and to pro­vide rapid infor­ma­tion (69 per­cent),” the sci­en­tists said. Nutri-Score was ranked as the pre­ferred label by 65 per­cent of the par­tic­i­pants.”

See Also: Nutri-Score Updates

The per­cent­age of par­tic­i­pants who improved their food choice was higher than those who wors­ened it, for all the labels,” the researchers added. For yogurts and cook­ies, the most sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments were observed for the Nutri-Score and the Reference Intakes.”

In their paper, researchers empha­sized how obe­sity has sky­rock­eted in Morocco over the past 10 years. According to sep­a­rate stud­ies, the rate of obe­sity among adults grew from 13 per­cent in 2008 to 20 per­cent in 2018.

Those num­bers have led to a series of gov­ern­ment pro­grams aimed at improv­ing the qual­ity of con­sumers’ food choices, some of which are sup­ported by the WHO. The researchers added that Morocco was con­sid­er­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of Nutri-Score as a result of these stud­ies.

While Nutri-Score is gain­ing trac­tion in Morocco and sev­eral other non-European coun­tries, the FOPL remains a con­tro­ver­sial topic in the European Union.

In the last few days, Italian farm­ers and gov­ern­ment offi­cials crit­i­cized Nestlé for its announce­ment of a new pea-based bev­er­age, high­light­ing its Green A” rat­ing.

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The fact that such a large com­pany man­u­fac­tures a food that does not exist nat­u­rally and then cheers for its Nutri-Score A rat­ing shows how jus­ti­fied our doubts about that label­ing sys­tem are,” Gian Marco Centinaio, the under­sec­re­tary for the Ministry of Agriculture, said.

Here we go with a new European mad­ness: after insects in food and water-filled wine, here comes the arti­fi­cial milk made in a lab­o­ra­tory from peas,” added Giorgia Meloni, pres­i­dent of the con­ser­v­a­tive Brothers of Italy party, which leads the oppo­si­tion in the Italian par­lia­ment.

We will fight our bat­tle both in Italy and Europe against the Nutri-Score, which rep­re­sents a dan­ger­ous men­ace to the Italian agri­food sys­tem and a bounty for the multi­na­tional com­pa­nies involved in the super­mar­ket chain,” she said.





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