Why the Nutri-score gives A to factory chips and E to farmhouse cheese

France’s Nutri-score Food Ratings are used to inform shoppers about the nutritional content of products but should not be considered the ultimate authority on food safety, its founder says The connection.

Nutri-score assigns items a grade from A to E – A being the healthiest and E the least – based on their ingredients, sugar, salt and/or fiber content, etc. June 2022, says the national health body Public Health France. However, this is not mandatory.

Dr. Serge Hercberg, the French epidemiologist and nutritionist who designed the AE system from green to red, spoke to us after growers, consumers and the media asked about some ratings.

For example, industrially produced fries, chips or pizzas have an A to B rating while artisanal cheeses are classified with the lowest E rating, reports TF1.

Read also: “Best before” food labels are changing in France to reduce waste

Nutri-score system “built on scientific data”

Dr Hercberg confirmed that the algorithm behind Nutri-score will be updated in early 2023 to include more results from new research into the health benefits of foods. He said the scoring system was based on science and had strong support.

“The fries are pre-cut and come from potatoes. They are low in salt and sugar. The nutritional composition has no indicators of unhealthy content,” he said, adding that the addition of ketchup and mayonnaise is often what makes them unhealthy.

Dr Hercberg added that companies often include information on how the rating would change based on how consumers cook the fries, explaining that they would retain their A rating if baked and would be downgraded to B. if they were cooked in low-fat oil.

“Now Roquefort is loaded with salt, saturated fat and calories,” he said, components considered unhealthy or carcinogenic.

Cheese producers have criticized that the Nutri-score system limits their products to a D grade at best, arguing that they must keep the same ingredients to continue to qualify as products worthy of the Protected Designation of Origin ( PDO).

Dr Hercberg says he is aware that PDO products follow long traditions of ingredients and recipes but wants producers to warn consumers about the health risks of consuming such products in large quantities. amount. He said he was not asking for a change in their composition.

However, two out of three products produced locally have a Nutri-score graduated from A to C, according to a survey by the consumer organization UFC-Que Choisir in May 2022.

Dr. Hercberg advised consumers to look for products containing fruits, vegetables and fiber that are low in salt, sugar and saturated fat when trying to buy healthier foods.

Nutri-score’s system is backed by more than 100 studies showing it provides information about food-related health risks.
More than 94% of French people say they have learned about the Nutri-score rating and 50% have thus changed at least one buying habit, according to a government study published in February 2021, three years after the system was set up.

New ranking coming in 2023

Nutri-score will change its scoring system in early 2023, as part of an algorithm update that takes place every three years.

The update will result from new scientific research on nutrition.

Red meats will be downgraded after numerous studies have shown that they can contribute to the development of colon cancer when consumed in large quantities.

Similarly, sweet products will also be classified more severely, with cereals moving from A to C.

The different types of milk will be more clearly differentiated, with added sugars taken into account. Many very salty products will be downgraded to D and E.

Ready meals will generally be downgraded from A/B to B/C.

However, Nutri-score could still run into problems after Claire Bury, deputy director for food sustainability at the European Commission, told Politico in September that the system would no longer be the nutrient indicator used in Europe.

Ms Bury’s comments are the result of active lobbying by agricultural industries who have criticized the scoring as being too simplistic and harsh on certain products, such as cheese, according to UFC-Que-Choisir.

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