How does Nutri-Score work?
It is a 5 letter colour classification system in which dark green A is the best option and red E the worst.
Green (A), very healthy
Light green (B), healthy
Yellow (C), neither good nor bad
Orange (D), unhealthy
Red (E), very unhealthy
The score is given on the basis of 100g or 100ml of product, concerning its content of :
- Nutrients and foods to be favoured (fibre, protein, fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts, rapeseed, walnut and olive oil),
- nutrients to be limited (energy, saturated fatty acids, sugars, salt)
This includes all processed foods (except herbs, tea, coffee and baby food) and all non-alcoholic drinks.
Unprocessed products, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, are not affected.
The criteria for awarding the Nutri-Score raise questions
Why are local products with an AOP (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) label ranked lower than industrial foods? How can McDonald's Chips be rated B, its hamburgers C .... and our good old Roquefort cheese D or E?
The explanation lies in the fact that the Nutri-Score does not count the degree of processing or the presence or absence of additives in the food product.
McDonald's fries are rated B even though they contain 18 additives in addition to the basic potato ingredient.
In contrast, traditional local recipes (which cannot be modified because of their PDO label) are considered too fatty and too salty. Despite the adaptation of the Nutri-Score for the dairy category, the majority of PDO cheeses are classified as D (93%) and E (6%). Many cheese producers (Roquefort, Cantal, Morbier, Mont d'Or, Parmesan Reggiano ....) consider this approach to be punitive and the industry is calling for the withdrawal of the Nutri-Score for PDO cheeses.
How can it be that extra virgin olive oil is given a D grade as 'unhealthy' while Coca Cola Zero is given a B grade as 'healthy'? Extra virgin olive oil and Coca Cola Zero are not comparable. One can easily drink 100ml of Coca Cola Zero ..... we remain doubtful about anyone who will ingest 100ml of olive oil!
Olive oil is very rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, in vitamin E and in polyphenols which give it nutritional qualities and virtues
(anti-inflammatory activity, antioxidants that improve cardiovascular health).
Coca-Cola Zero, which is made from a sugar substitute called aspartame, is rated B because it contains neither sugar nor calories. However, aspartame is highly controversial for several reasons: it is suspected of causing increased oxidative stress and neurodegeneration.
Several nutritionists are calling for people not to rely on the Nutri-Score, as it is not a guarantee of quality products! After all, isn't it better to taste a Roquefort cheese rich in vitamin A rather than chips seasoned with a toxic petroleum-based agent or the same additive found in household detergents? It's not comparable. But that's what the nutri-score does, it evaluates foods that have no similarity.
Nutri-Score ignores the quality / quantity / nutritional efficiency equation
The first failure of the Nutri-Score is its obsession with rating a product for a specific nutrient or its calories, rather than for the food as a whole. Products that are fatty, high in calories, too salty or too sweet automatically get a low score. Conversely, products rich in nutrients, fibre and protein get a good Nutri-Score. This rating does not take into account the type of fat or the impact of food on our body.
The second problem is that Nutri-Score values all products on the same quantity, i.e. 100g or 100ml, which does not correspond to the actual portion size of many foods.
Consider the following examples:
On the one hand, an individual cooked dish of veal paupiette, net weight 300g, which receives the Nutri-Score A rating (rating calculated on the basis of 100g of finished product).
Opposite, a bag of Norwegian Sigdal gluten-free oatmeal crackers, containing 8 crackers with a total net weight of 190g, which gets a C rating.
It seems quite plausible to consume only 3 Sigdal gluten-free oat crunchies, i.e. a total net weight of 71.25g of products and feel completely full, while having absorbed a recognised nutritional efficiency.
By giving a positive rating to certain ultra-processed foods, this Nutri-Score system may cause consumers to favour their consumption over real food and this would be a serious mistake.
Seed nutrition is extremely healthy from a nutritional point of view, and represents a solution for the future as it provides a unique efficiency in terms of calories offered per amount of calories used to produce. How can Nutri-Score ignore such a vital aspect for our future and our health?