LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ / AFP
The Nutri-Score will change from the end of 2023, European health authorities have announced.
HEALTH – Frozen fries, sugar-free sodas or ready meals were sometimes wrongly given an A or a B. This is why the method of calculating the Nutri-Score, the nutritional labeling imposed in France and other European countries, will change from the end of 2023, to better take into account knowledge in terms offeed and health, health authorities announced on Monday, April 24.
With its pellets ranging from green to red with the letters from A to E, the Nutri-Score, launched in 2017, has been the subject of criticism which relates to the obsolete or unsuitable nature of some of its recommendations. It is with this in mind that its managers have revised, in two stages, its calculation algorithm: after a first stage in July 2022 on solid foods, the steering committee has just submitted its work on the beverage component.
Cereals, vegetable milk, meatsugar-free soda… Serge Hercberg, professor at the Sorbonne Paris Nord University, specialist in public health nutrition and father of the Nutri-Score, is back for The HuffPost on the new notes of some of our foods and drinks.
The HuffPost : Why did the health authorities decide to modify the Nutri-Score algorithm?
Serge Hercberg: Since the Nutri-Score was launched, it was expected that its algorithm would be regularly updated based on scientific progress, public health data, market developments, food supply. This is why a scientific committee made up of independent researchers from the seven European countries where the Nutri-Score is in force (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, editor’s note) met for 18 months to think about how to improve their performance.
We do not change the background of the Nutri-Score, nor its philosophy, nor its graphic format. The changes made will make it possible to further penalize foods with too much sugar and salt, for example.
What adjustments are made for solid products?
Already, there will be a greater penalization of sugary products, because there is no threshold below which sugar does not penalize health. Breakfast cereals, which were in A, will now be C. Whole cereals, on the other hand, will be better classified.
Among other major changes: very salty products will be penalized, such as frozen pizzas. Olive and rapeseed oil will move from C to B, while other oils will remain C, D, E, depending on their saturated fat content. Red meats, which studies have shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer, will also be downgraded. The less fat and salty cheeses, such as Emmental, will get a C, while the others will remain in D or E.
And for drinks, which are the most affected by this new algorithm?
The main problem was that of milk, and especially sweetened milks, which fell into the method of calculating solid foods: they will now fall into the “drinks” category.
Some milk drinks were highly rated even though they contained sugar. For example, yoghurt drinks got a B when they contain more than 10 grams of sugar per 100 milliliters, like a soda. The same goes for fermented milks or vegetable milks, which were classified A or B. All these sugary drinks will now be classified D or E.
As for milk, hitherto A or B, a distinction will now be made between skimmed milk and semi-skimmed milk, which will move to D, and whole milk which will be downgraded to C.
For fruit juices, no change planned because they are well covered by the Nutri-Score. Their rating varies according to their sugar content: nectars are classified D or E, pure juices are classified C or D. Same thing for sodas, no change planned, because they are already awarded an E. Only drinks very low in sugar, containing less than 2 grams of sugar per millilitre, will be reclassified as B instead of C.
A major update is also going to be done on drinks with sweeteners, why?
Scientific studies have shown that drinking sweetened beverages has little health benefit compared to regular soda. It is not legitimate for “light” or “zero sugar” sodas to be classified B, so they will be penalized in the new algorithm and will go to at least C. Sodas that mix sweeteners and sugars will be rated D or E .
What are the next improvements in reflection?
The question that now arises is that of ultra-processed foods that contain a lot of additives, which are not taken into account in the calculation of the Nutri-Score. The researchers suggest that a black band appear around the Nutri-Score to alert the consumer to these foods.
While waiting for this future black band, I recommend looking at the list of ingredients on the label: if it is very long with scholarly names, it is undoubtedly an ultra-processed product. As with foods classified D or E, you should not stop eating them but limit their consumption.
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