`Newly-Proposed Med Index Rating Seeks to Surpass Nutri-Score and Nutrinform - Olive Oil Times

Newly-Proposed Med Index Rating Seeks to Surpass Nutri-Score and Nutrinform

By Paolo DeAndreis
Sep. 27, 2021 12:39 UTC

A team of Italian researchers has devised a new label­ing sys­tem to include a sin­gle front-of-pack logo com­pris­ing the food item’s nutri­tional qual­i­ties and envi­ron­men­tal impacts.

The authors of the new Med Index said that it was cre­ated to allow con­sumers to choose their food at a glance while also push­ing pro­duc­ers to enhance the qual­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity of their prod­ucts.

It seems a good solu­tion to intro­duce in a moment in which the olive oil sec­tor is giv­ing so much in terms of try­ing to edu­cate the con­sumers about its qual­i­ties.- Elia Pellegrino, pres­i­dent, Italian Olive Milling Association

The focus of the label­ing sys­tem is extra vir­gin olive oil and the food items tra­di­tion­ally asso­ci­ated with the Mediterranean diet.

The researchers at the University of Bari, in Puglia, said how cur­rent label­ing plat­forms such as Nutri-Score or the Italian alter­na­tive Nutrinform Battery do not con­sider the envi­ron­men­tal impact of food pro­duc­tion. They also ques­tioned the cri­te­ria used by both sys­tems to qual­ify food as healthy or unhealthy.

See Also:Hundreds of Scientists Support Adoption of Nutri-Score Labeling System

The multi-dis­ci­pli­nary research team that devel­oped Med Index has high­lighted sev­eral Nutri-Score short­com­ings,” Maria Lisa Clodoveo, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at the University of Bari’s inter­dis­ci­pli­nary school of med­i­cine, told Olive Oil Times.

Nutri-Score rates food for a well-bal­anced diet on the basis of 100-gram or 100-mil­li­liter sam­ples. Still, we all know that not all food is con­sumed in the same quan­ti­ties,” she added. Therefore, a para­dox is gen­er­ated for many dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, whose role in a healthy diet can­not be judged on the basis of 100 grams. For exam­ple, nobody would eat 100 mil­li­liters of extra vir­gin olive oil or 100 grams of Parmigiano Reggiano.”

Clodoveo said that a lot had changed since Nutri-Score’s first intro­duc­tion in France.

In the last years, we have expe­ri­enced a sig­nif­i­cant accel­er­a­tion in knowl­edge,” she said. We do not talk of calo­ries any­more but talk about nutrige­nomics and nutri­ge­net­ics.”

The new Med Index places extra vir­gin olive oil among the most rel­e­vant ingre­di­ents in a healthy diet. By com­par­i­son, Nutri-Score rates extra vir­gin olive oil with a Yellow C” on a scale from Green A” to Red E.”


That same rat­ing is given to olive oil, seeds oil and many other fats that do not share in any way the healthy and unique pro­file of extra vir­gin olive and its polyphe­nols, through which it plays a piv­otal nutrige­nomic role,” Clodoveo said.

Nutri-Score is there­fore not sci­en­tif­i­cally up to date and does not take the lat­est research into due account,” she added.

To the Italian sci­en­tists, the C‑rating for extra vir­gin olive oil is a syn­onym for medi­oc­rity,” Clodoveo said. Nutri-Score can not tell veg­etable fat that have polyphe­nols and those that do not.”

However, Serge Hercberg, the devel­oper of Nutri-Score, told Olive Oil Times in a July 2020 inter­view that the point of Nutri-Score is to com­pare items in the same food group and not among food groups.

“[The C for olive oil is] the best score pos­si­ble for added fats and even for veg­etable oils,” he said. The pub­lic health rec­om­men­da­tions do not sug­gest con­sum­ing olive oil with­out lim­its, but they encour­age con­sumers to favor it over other veg­etable oils and espe­cially over ani­mal fats.”

The Italian stan­dard, which has been cre­ated as an alter­na­tive to Nutri-Score, Nutrinform Battery, also does not con­vince the Med Index researchers.


It is a food label­ing plat­form that has gone through a swift devel­op­ment process that involved rel­e­vant aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tions. Still, Clodoveo said, it did not involve the Italian sci­en­tific world as a whole.”

“[Nutrinform Battery] uses an icono­graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tion, the bat­tery, at the oppo­site of what com­mon sense tells us,” she added. When we think of a bat­tery, we can asso­ciate it being fully charged with full health, as many food sup­ple­ments do in their graph­ics. Nutrinform Battery goes the oppo­site way.”


Nutrinform Battery

The Med Index does not only talk about nutri­tion.

Medical researchers, food chem­istry sci­en­tists, econ­o­mists, physi­cians, psy­chol­o­gists and nutri­tion­ists were asked to coop­er­ate in devel­op­ing Med Index,” Clodoveo said. The result is a col­ored rat­ing scale which only deploys good,’ bet­ter’ and best’ rat­ings while focus­ing specif­i­cally on extra vir­gin olive oil and the other Mediterranean diet spe­cial­ties.”

The label­ing sys­tem devised in Bari uses a pyra­mid to show how many por­tions are included in the labeled pack, how much phys­i­cal activ­ity is required to com­pen­sate for the energy pro­vided by the food item and how well it scores in terms of nutri­tional, envi­ron­men­tal and social sus­tain­abil­ity.


Photo: Med Index

However, there are some lim­i­ta­tions to the new label­ing sys­tem. The Med Index does not include processed and ultra-processed food as well as those with spe­cific addi­tives or adju­vants.

It is inspired by the MedDiet prin­ci­ples, such as con­sum­ing dif­fer­ent kinds of sea­sonal food and food sub­jected to low or no pro­cess­ing,” Clodoveo said. We have estab­lished a series of com­plex cri­te­ria that allow the con­sumer to make a con­scious choice in a mat­ter of sec­onds.”

Among these cri­te­ria are how the income gen­er­ated by pur­chas­ing the food is spread through­out the pro­duc­tion chain and the level of gen­der equal­ity in the sup­ply chain.

The prospect of label­ing extra vir­gin olive oil within the Med Index rat­ing sys­tem has been wel­comed by pro­duc­ers in Italy.

It seems a good solu­tion to intro­duce in a moment in which the olive oil sec­tor is giv­ing so much in terms of try­ing to edu­cate the con­sumers about its qual­i­ties,” Elia Pellegrino, pres­i­dent of the Italian Olive Milling Association, told Olive Oil Times.

Until now, con­sumers did not show a pro­found inter­est in extra vir­gin olive oil label­ing. They are mak­ing most of their choices on the basis of the price of the prod­uct instead,” she added. Our hopes are for a sim­ple label, which the con­sumers can eas­ily under­stand.”

According to Pellegrino, the most rel­e­vant issue for pro­duc­ers is that the label cer­ti­fies the unique qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Med Index pro­po­nents explained that due to the Covid-19 pan­demic and the accel­er­a­tion of nutri­tion knowl­edge and envi­ron­men­tal and bio­di­ver­sity pro­tec­tion, the European Union should not rush to have its label­ing stan­dard in place.

We hope that the 2022 dead­line for choos­ing the label­ing plat­form will be delayed,” Clodoveo said. It is a step of the Farm-to-Fork strat­egy; the deci­sion Brussels will take will affect Europe for at least the next 10 years.”

According to the researchers, the fact that a pro­posed label such as Nutri-Score was adopted only by a few coun­tries and fiercely opposed by oth­ers shows that the cur­rent debate is not inclu­sive enough.

The idea to exclude some kinds of food from Nutri-Score, such as those pro­tected by the European des­ig­na­tions of ori­gin, fur­ther shows that this pro­posal falls short of its goals,” Clodoveo said.

We need the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity to debate for con­sumers to under­stand what label­ing means, for pol­i­cy­mak­ers to eval­u­ate what sci­ence has brought to the table,” she con­cluded. It is a big deci­sion that will have an impact on agri-food pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing.”


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