On 1 January 2022, France will begin its six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union. Forward of this upcoming time period, a small stone has slipped into the shoe of French leaders: Nutri-Rating. This dietary labelling system, within the type of a visitors gentle, has been utilized by French shops since 2016 and now has the complete consideration of the European Fee, which is on the lookout for the best candidate for its FOP (entrance of pack) labelling system. However Nutri-Rating is dealing with competitors from different techniques and is more and more the article of criticism from different member states. 

Roquefort “Denormandie”

Responding to Roquefort producers who went to the mat over the labelling of their product in early October, the French Minister of Agriculture, Julien Denormandie, has referred to as for a “evaluation of the methodology” behind the Nutri-Rating. Initially of October, the Normal Confederation of Roquefort, sad with the unfavorable classification of the famed sheep’s cheese (categorised D and E), requested for an exemption. 

Throughout a conference of France’s Nationwide Affiliation of Elected Representatives of Mountain Districts (ANEM) in Grand-Bornand (Haute-Savoie), the minister directed various factors of criticism towards this method which impacts “mountain merchandise particularly.” He additionally criticized a strategy primarily based on portions and “classifications that don’t essentially correspond to precise consuming habits.”(1)

Nutri-Rating opponents of the world unite

The revolt of the cheese makers, whereas it could appear unprecedented in France, echoes all too many previous episodes. Certainly, removed from having fun with unanimous approval, the Nutri-Rating system is consistently sparking protests throughout Europe. After the Spanish olive oil producers, Italian cheese and ham producers spoke out, and from there, different nations got here ahead to defend their culinary traditions. A coalition was even formed final yr to counter the push for Nutri-Rating, bringing collectively Italy, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Cyprus, Greece, and Romania. 

Opponents of Nutri-Rating denounce what they contemplate to be an aberration, if not a scandal: whereas the dietary virtues of the Mediterranean weight loss plan have been confirmed surely, it seems that probably the most iconic merchandise of Mediterranean delicacies all get a nasty Nutri-Rating grade.

The explanation for that is that the designers of the French algorithm have a fierce hatred of saturated fats, as Professor Philippe Legrand defined in an interview with the European Scientist. Nutri-Rating doesn’t keep in mind the truth that the struggle towards fats is completely outdated. Quite the opposite, it has made that struggle the spearhead of its algorithm. As Professor Legrand advised us: “Within the Nutriscore, all oils are categorised between C and E and most of them between D and E. Why do they incur this punishment when they need to vary from A to E, based on their ranges of important fatty acids, omega-6, omega-3, and saturated fatty acids? Their unique sin is unforgivable, ‘they’re fats.’ It’s nonetheless a little bit of a shock to be taught that even weight loss plan sodas have been ranked greater than fruit juices and olive oil by the Nutriscore.”

A rising variety of calls for for exemptions

With that in thoughts, it isn’t stunning to see increasingly requests for exemptions. As many of the specialists crucial of Nutri-Rating level out, its biggest fault is that it claims to be a one-size-fits-all rule for diets, whereas the most recent scientific findings have a tendency to point out that on this space, a tailored method is definitely extra applicable.

For instance, analysis by the Weizmann Institute in Israel reveals that every particular person has an individualized response to a given kind of meals. It will subsequently be a critical mistake to direct shoppers in the direction of standardized dietary profiles when what they actually need are tailored suggestions.

The Nutri-Rating method appears all of the extra outdated provided that there are actually smartphone purposes that enable for exactly this sort of tailored weight loss plan (read our interview with Raphael Sirtoli for extra on this topic).

As such, it’s only pure that every kind of meals is now claiming its proper to an exemption. Particular person shoppers, in spite of everything, aren’t the one ones to undergo collateral harm from a very simplistic system; conventional diets, with all their native particularities, are additionally in danger.

Pure vs. processed merchandise  

Lastly, it’s changing into more and more obvious that the Nutri-Rating largely favors industrial meals merchandise and drawbacks unprocessed and pure meals. As Dr. Rafael Moreno Rojas identified to the European Scientist, whereas the previous can modify their components and make-up to be extra appropriate with the algorithm, it’s way more difficult (if not unimaginable) to switch a conventional recipe. 

There are clear grounds for skepticism when one sees fast-food chains proudly displaying the algorithm: “67% of KFC merchandise, together with desserts and aspect dishes, managed to acquire the three greatest Nutri-Rating scores and 59% are categorised both ‘A’ or ‘B’.”

Ought to we be selecting this sort of meals over conventional cheeses and charcuterie, which infrequently handle to transcend a D grade? Certainly, it wouldn’t be stunning to see this sort of argument taken up by these liable to conspiracy theories, who’re already satisfied that the visitors gentle is an instrument utilized by the meals business to crush native gastronomic traditions. How can we convey the controversy again onto stable scientific floor?

Evaluating the science behind Nutri-Rating

In a current webinar, Dr. Francesco Visioli from the College of Padova and Dr. Ramon Estruch from the College of Barcelona debated the scientific foundation of Nutri-Rating. They got here to the conclusion there was nothing scientific concerning the label, and that it jeopardized shopper selection by deceptive shoppers.

Based on each specialists, the algorithm utilized by the Nutri-Rating is bigoted and may be simply manipulated. The proof: wholesome meals from the Mediterranean weight loss plan are poorly rated. On high of that: “the vitamins contained within the meals are evaluated in an arbitrary manner;” the truth is, processed meals are favored as a result of their components may be modified. Lastly, it’s the general weight loss plan that ought to be thought-about by way of dietetics, and never the sorts of comparisons between ‘good’ and ‘unhealthy’ meals that Nutri-Rating makes by distributing scores.

As such, these specialists favor and suggest a Nutrinform-type resolution that merely informs shoppers and provides them a software that empowers them to decide on for themselves, as an alternative of infantilizing them.  

It’s effectively value noting that the perfect obtainable dietary science reveals us that the worst mistake can be to entrust our diets to an algorithm that spoon-feeds selections to us. All of the extra so when it’s programmed in accordance with an old school ideology that believes everybody ought to eat the identical meals and keep away from others, and that’s infatuated with a rearguard motion such because the struggle towards saturated fat.

I’m trying ahead to seeing how the French EU presidency will deal with this problem and whether or not it can aspect with science. European shoppers, but in addition European nations and their native traditions, would have all the things to realize.

(1) https://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-eco/nutri-score-denormandie-appelle-a-revoir-la-methodologie-20211021


(3)Whereas conventional or ‘appellation contrôlée’ merchandise are at an obstacle as a result of they can’t alter their recipes, the foremost meals companies may have a bonus as a result of, based on Dr. Moreno Rojas: “They base their manufacturing on the ‘formulation’ of the product, and might simply adapt the composition to evolve to a greater classification, with out this essentially implying a dietary enchancment. For instance, by changing the intrinsic sugars offered by their pure components with meals components that present sweetness (and cut back sugars and energy), after which they should use flavorings to disguise the absence of the unique ingredient, in addition to colours, thickeners, stabilizers and many others. which might be required to make the meals appear like the unique factor.”

(4) https://www.club-sandwich.net/breves/kfc-affiche-le-nutri-score-de-ses-plats-716.php

(5) https://www.competere.eu/press-release-the-european-scientific-community-against-nutri-score/

Learn extra

Interview with Professor Philippe Legrand: “Not all French experts agree on Nutriscore”

Interview with Raphael Sirtoli, co-founder of Nutrita: is FOP food labelling built on junk science ?

Setting the European table: a 27-star or a tricolour menu? Poland wonders about Nutri-Score

Will Nutriscore founder on the slippery issue of Spanish olive oil?

Could better dietary choices prepare us for the world after COVID-19?


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