Have you found a nutri-score of “A” on the packaging of a burger? Make no mistake!

The Nutri-Score is a five-point scale from A to E that indicates the total value of a product’s nutritional value. It is the most useful and easy to understand for consumers. The Nutri-Score allows the consumer to better compare foods in the same category. France and Belgium have already introduced Nutri-Score on the front of food packaging. In many other countries, this introduction is under discussion.

What does the Nutri-Score say?

The Nutri-Score provides the consumer with a real additional advantage and supports him in choosing a healthy diet.

You can find the indication of the nutri-score in the form of a point as mentioned above or in color. Green for the healthiest. Yellow for a healthy food with a few components to avoid. Orange: a food considered healthy, to be consumed in moderation, and red: unhealthy food.

To classify a product, the number of nutritionally favorable and unfavorable calories and nutrients are balanced against each other.

Nutri-Score calculation:

The prerequisites for obtaining the nutri-score are that the food must be packaged and carry nutrition labelling. The food must also contain at least one of the following nutrients: protein, fibre, calcium, iron, sodium, vitamin C or vitamin A.

“Unfavorable ingredients” such as sugar, salt, saturated fatty acids, as well as a high energy content increase the Nutri-Score. “Friendly ingredients” such as protein, fiber, fruits, vegetables, and nuts decrease it. The lower a product’s score, the better its Nutri-Score. Points range from -15 (A, dark green, healthier choice) to over 19 (E, red, unhealthy choice).

For certain ingredients such as nuts and vegetables to be included in the calculation as positive ingredients, their share must be greater than 40%. Therefore, adding a few nuts to a chocolate muesli, for example, does not change the Nutri-Score.

Nutri-score: when junk food intrigues us.

What if a “good” Nutri-Score did not necessarily guarantee the nutritional quality of a food product? The examples of diet soda (which gets a “B”) and frozen fries (“A”) have largely covered the question.

For light drinks, the Nutri-Score reflects their low to zero sugar and calorie content. It is therefore logical that a light soda obtains a better score than its homogeneous with sugar. Never as good as water, the only ‘A’ rated beverage. The Nutri-Score does not take into account sweeteners or other additives. For the moment, this does not enter its prerequisites. Consumers who want to avoid sweeteners and additives can pay attention to the “E-point” in the ingredient list.

And the fries, then? Like the nutritional table on the back of the package, the Nutri-Score reflects the nutritional value of the food as it is sold, and not as it is prepared. That’s why frozen fries (which are nothing but peeled and chopped potatoes) get an “A.” But of course, the nutritional value of fries depends a lot on the method of cooking (oven or fryer), the type of oil used and the amount of salt used.

What we can deduce, the nutri-score gives fast foods, soft drinks, and crisps an A grade because they meet its prerequisites. However, these foods are unhealthy as they are high in calories, fat, sugar and sodium.

This is why neither the nutritional table nor the label on the front of the package can take these parameters into account.

What are the considerations to take as a consumer?

What happens to people who see an “A” and eat way too much of it? Too much of anything (even healthy foods) can be a bad thing.

What if people start refusing to eat anything below the C grade? Or what about those who can’t eat an “E” food without feeling guilty?

Moderation is part of any healthy diet. People shouldn’t be ashamed of drinking a milkshake and shouldn’t be rewarded for only eating ‘A’ rated products. For this to work, there must be a clear promotion of a balanced diet and consideration for people with eating disorders. Likewise, such a system can be very disturbing for a person in recovery.

But despite these concerns, many people could benefit from clearer labeling of food products as they work on their own health goals. Whether or not Nutri-Score is the best option. This is certainly a step in the right direction for consumer health and decision-making.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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