Nutri-Score algorithm to be updated, including changes to cheese and olive oil classifications
The scientific committee behind the Nutri-Score front-of-pack labelling system has recommended several improvements be made to its algorithm.
According to the Scientific Committee of the Nutri-Score – a group comprised of Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland – these changes will help to ensure the system aligns with proper dietary guidelines.
Since its adoption in February 2021, the Nutri-Score algorithm and scoring has caused significant controversies. The system’s low grading for foods like cheese, cured meats and olive oil, as well as alcohol, has drawn fire from countries like France and Italy.
The debate surrounding the scoring system was further fuelled when the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) put the validity of the Nutri-Score algorithm into question in May 2022 and undermined plans to roll out the solution EU-wide.
The recommendations from the Scientific Committee of the Nutri-Score aim to tackle the troubles faced by the system, and bring it better in line with dietary recommendations. Crucially, this first set of alterations is based only on food, and not beverages.
Among the improvements, the committee has proposed a better classification of plant-based oils like olive, walnut, and rapeseed. These oils are lower in saturated fats than others, but currently hold the same low grading.
Another recommendation aimed at addressing controversy is an improved assessment of certain dairy products. The committee says a differentiation is needed between sweetened and unsweetened dairy products, as well as different types of cheese, as some are healthier than others.
Certain fatty fish also need to be reconsidered by the algorithm, according to the committee. These fish can be great sources of omegas and vitamins and should be better classified to signal to consumers that they are healthy, it said.
Finally, the Nutri-Score committee said better differentiation was needed between foods based on their sugar and salt content, as well as whole grain fibre-rich foods and refined foods.
The Scientific Committee of the Nutri-Score has already voted to adopt these improvements to the algorithm. It says a similar revision regarding the Nutri-Score’s evaluation of beverages is expected by the end of 2022.
Once all revisions and recommendations have been settled, the committee will begin work to tweak the algorithm accordingly. It says those affected by the change will be given “a sufficiently long period” to implement the label change.