A, B, C…? Green or red? The Nutri-Score algorithm, which provides information on the nutritional quality of food products, must be revised by the end of the year. Consequence of the report of an international scientific committee, adopted at the end of July. The experts had been mandated by the seven European member countries of the governance of the nutrition labeling logo (France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland), to propose modifications to the calculation method.
The Nutri-Score is subject to change “depending on the evolution of scientific knowledge in the field of nutrition and the experience of its deployment in real conditions”, explains Professor Serge Hercberg, who created the logo with the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN, University of Paris 13).
Red meat, for example, will be subject to a specific rule operating “clear discrimination” between red meat and poultry products. “This modification allows a better alignment between the classification operated by the Nutri-Score and the nutritional recommendations, for which a limitation of the consumption of red meat is indicated”, underlines the EREN.
Cheeses will not be subject to a special rule, contrary to what dairy producers and manufacturers were asking for, who believe their products are unfairly rated poorly. They accuse the Nutri-Score of disfavoring regional products. With the new algorithm, the “hard cheeses with limited amounts of salt”such as Emmental, will benefit from a more favorable rating and may reach category C (ratings ranging from A to E).
Products with a high sugar and salt content will be rated more severely. This is the case of sweetened dairy products which will generally be classified in category C, against A or B currently. The objective being to distinguish them more strongly from their unsweetened variants.
800 brands in France
The roll-out of Nutri-Score in Europe continues to encounter many obstacles since its launch in 2017. Labeling is done on a voluntary basis, for the moment. Manufacturers have agreed, more or less forced, to play the game, going so far as to modify their recipes to obtain a better rating (Intermarché, Danone, Nestlé, etc.). Others remain firmly opposed to it (Ferrero, Coca-Cola, Lactalis, etc.). In France, more than 800 brands have now adopted it, estimates EREN, covering around 60% of the food market.
In Italy, where agri-food lobbies are up in arms against Nutri-Score, the Italian Competition and Markets Authority (AGCM) ruled in early August in favor of the country’s main agricultural union, ConfAgricoltura. It forces three foreign companies, including Carrefour, to remove the Nutri-Score from their products distributed in Italy. The Authority argues that there is no obligation to affix a nutritional logo to packaging in European legislation, and renews its criticisms of the French rating system, which it considers ” arbitrary “ and potentially misleading for the consumer.
The EU will decide on a simplified system
The Carrefour distributor will no longer be able to affix the logo to products distributed on the Italian market, in particular those bearing a quality label (PDO, IGP, TSG, etc.) and, more broadly, traditional Italian gastronomy products (charcuterie, cheeses, olive oil).
The tug of war continues between the Nutri-Score pros and antis while the European Union must decide, at the end of 2022, on a simplified, harmonized and compulsory nutritional labeling system throughout Europe.