Updated Nutri-Score Label Indicates Whether Food Is Processed, Organic

Nutri-Score’s creator said a new feature is designed to provide a more holistic view on the health score of packaged foods.
Dec. 13, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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The research team behind Nutri-Score is updat­ing the front-of-pack label (FOPL) to include whether the food is ultra-processed.

The first exam­ples of the new logo have been pre­sented by Nutri-Score cre­ator Serge Hercberg, a pro­fes­sor of nutri­tion at the Université Sorbonne Paris-Nord, and the work­ing team.

Nutri-Score does not claim to be an infor­ma­tion sys­tem on the global health dimen­sion of food, so it must be com­ple­mented by spe­cific infor­ma­tion advis­ing con­sumers about the other dimen­sions- Serge Hercberg, cre­ator, Nutri-Score

The new labels include an ultra-processed” indi­ca­tion dis­played within a black bor­der sur­round­ing the tra­di­tional well-known Nutri-Score label.

See Also:Critics of Nutri-Score Demand Reform to Ratings of PDO and PGI Foods

The orig­i­nal label did not include any infor­ma­tion about whether fer­til­iz­ers or pes­ti­cides were used on the food either, so the redesign will also fea­ture the tra­di­tional organic green label when applic­a­ble.

Given the wide adop­tion of Nutri-Score through­out Europe in the last few years, the lat­est update could affect the habits of mil­lions of con­sumers.

The addi­tional infor­ma­tion under­scores the need to answer the grow­ing requests for more com­plete infor­ma­tion about the con­tents of food pack­ages.

The health impact of the nutri­tional com­po­si­tion of food is well estab­lished,” Hercberg told Olive Oil Times. He added that thou­sands of stud­ies demon­strate the neg­a­tive impact of con­sum­ing food high in salt, sugar, sat­u­rated fats and low in fibers, vit­a­mins and min­er­als on human health.

According to Hercberg, Nutri-Score con­sid­ers such fac­tors to help con­sumers select foods that will lower the risk of can­cers, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases, dia­betes and even mor­tal­ity.

However, the label did not con­sider whether the food was ultra-processed or not. Over the past decade, dozens of stud­ies have shown links between the con­sump­tion of ultra-processed food and an increased risk of var­i­ous chronic dis­eases,” Herberg said.

In fact, the nutri­tional com­po­si­tion and the ultra-pro­cess­ing are two health dimen­sions of foods likely to inde­pen­dently affect the risk of chronic dis­eases through dif­fer­ent spe­cific and com­ple­men­tary mech­a­nisms,” he added.

Hence, the need for an update of the logo, which cur­rently rates food items with a color-let­ter code, run­ning from the health­i­est Green A” to the least healthy Red E.”

Although dif­fer­ent, the nutri­tional and ultra-pro­cess­ing dimen­sions are par­tially over­lap­ping,” Herberg said. Even if, on aver­age, ultra-processed food might have lower nutri­tional qual­ity, some of those foods might still present a favor­able nutri­tional pro­file.”


The Nutri-Score label

On the other hand, some foods con­sid­ered not ultra-processed – which means not processed, processed or only slightly processed – can also present a low nutri­tional qual­ity pro­file, such as if they are high in sat­u­rated fat, sugar or salt,” he added. So it is impor­tant to inform con­sumers about these two dif­fer­ent health dimen­sions of foods.”

According to Hercberg, con­sumers should use cau­tion when choos­ing ultra-processed food. To help con­sumers make health­ier choices, sev­eral coun­tries includ­ing France have pub­lic health rec­om­men­da­tions that tar­get ultra-processed foods.

That is why giv­ing infor­ma­tion on nutri­tional qual­ity, as Nutri-Score does, while also per­mit­ting the con­sumers to rec­og­nize the ultra-processed food will help them make health­ier choices,” Hercberg said.

He added that if con­sumers still want to eat ultra-processed food, then Nutri-Score will help them rec­og­nize which ones are more nutri­tious within a given cat­e­gory of food.

However, Herberg admit­ted that a label sum­ma­riz­ing the nutri­tional pro­file, level of pro­cess­ing and the pres­ence of pes­ti­cides in food in a sin­gle logo is just not viable.

To sum­ma­rize these three health dimen­sions of foods through a sin­gle and reli­able indi­ca­tor, which would be able to pre­dict over­all health risk would be, obvi­ously, the dream of any pub­lic health nutri­tion actor in the inter­est of con­sumers,” he said.

See Also:Nutri-Score Updates

Hercberg added that cre­at­ing a com­bined label would require plenty of research into the pre­cise impact each of the three health dimen­sions has indi­vid­u­ally and com­bined.

Since its intro­duc­tion, Nutri-Score has been val­i­dated by a num­ber of stud­ies show­ing its effects on upgrad­ing the nutri­tional pro­file of con­sumers’ food choices.

Still, the label has also been crit­i­cized for not show­ing all the healthy micronu­tri­ents con­tained in a food item. This has espe­cially been a stick­ing point for olive oil pro­duc­ers and the Yellow C” with which all grades of olive oil are rated.

This is not spe­cific to Nutri-Score, as all nutri­tion labels, includ­ing Nutrinform, Multiple Traffic Lights, Health Star rat­ing and even guide­line daily amounts (GDA) and ref­er­ence intakes (RI) do the same,” Herberg said. They all clas­sify extra vir­gin olive oil and refined olive oil the same way.”

He attrib­uted this to the widely-used NOVA clas­si­fi­ca­tions, which do not dif­fer­en­ti­ate between ani­mal or veg­etable fats.

It is sur­pris­ing Nutri-Score should be blamed for some­thing that is not even raised for other clas­si­fi­ca­tions,” Hercberg said.

Nutri-Score does not claim to be an infor­ma­tion sys­tem on the global health dimen­sion of food, so it must be com­ple­mented by spe­cific infor­ma­tion advis­ing con­sumers about the other dimen­sions, in par­tic­u­lar those cor­re­spond­ing to the pro­cess­ing or the food being a prod­uct of organic farm­ing,” he added.

Health author­i­ties will now eval­u­ate the new pro­posal. In the mean­time, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has launched a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion regard­ing the devel­op­ment of a pan-European FOPL that the European Commission plans to adopt by the end of 2022.

Nutri-Score remains the front-run­ner but is also com­pet­ing with other rival FOPLs pro­posed by its detrac­tors, includ­ing the Italian-born Nutrinform Battery.

Some prac­ti­cal points have to be resolved,” Hercberg con­cluded. Still, the final deci­sions are in the hands of pub­lic health author­i­ties.”


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