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Report of the European Scientific Committee in charge of updating the Nutri-Score: changes to the algorithm for solid foods 

The international Scientific Committee of the Nutri-Score, which was mandated by the Steering Committee to make recommendations for the update of its algorithm, has delivered a first report detailing the recommended changes to the algorithm for the general case (including a specific rule for red meat), fats, nuts and seeds. The report is available at https://solidarites-sante.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/maj__rapport_nutri-score_rapport__algorithme_2022_.pdf

The steering committee unanimously approved these changes, which will therefore be incorporated into the new version of the Nutri-Score. Their implementation is planned after the necessary changes of the regulatory texts governing the use of the Nutri-Score.

The changes made are as follows:

  • For the main algorithm for general foods
  • An increase in the number of points for sugars up to 15 points, and an alignment of the allocation of points with the FIC regulation, based on a nutritional reference of 90g/d of sugars.
  • An increase in the number of points for salt (instead of sodium) up to 20 points
  • A change in the allocation of points for fibre, to align with a nutritional reference of 30g/d. The initial value for having at least one point for fibres is set at the threshold for obtaining the claim ‘source of fibres’
  • An increase in the number of points for protein up to 7 points, with a change in the allocation of points based on a nutritional reference of 64g/d
  • A change in the ‘fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and rapeseed, olive and nut oils’ component to include only fruit, vegetables and pulses (exclusion of nuts and specific oils)
  • A change in the threshold between A and B to 0/1 (currently -1/0)

Finally, a specific rule within the main algorithm for general foods is introduced: a limitation of points for protein for red meat, which can no longer earn more than 2 points in this component. This modification allows a better alignment between the Nutri-Score classification and national nutritional recommendations, for which a limitation of red meat consumption is indicated.

These modifications lead to changes on average for some food groups in preference to others, with in particular a better discrimination between food products according to their nutritional composition:

  • Fish, and in particular fatty fish without added nutrients (salt or oil), are improved and are mainly classified in the A and B categories of the Nutri-Score
  • Low-salt hard cheeses (e.g. Emmenthal) can now be classified as C in the Nutri-Score
  • Products with a high salt or sugar content are shifted towards less favourable classifications: these products are now classified as E in the Nutri-Score, with an equivalent penalty for products with a high saturated fatty acid, salt or sugar content
  • For sweet products in general, the allocation of points is now stricter. Breakfast cereals with a relatively high sugar content can no longer be classified as A in the Nutri-Score, and are on average more likely to be classified as C. Similarly, sweetened dairy products tend to shift towards less favourable classifications, and are now more likely to be classified as C.
  • For bread, there is a better discrimination between wholemeal products (mostly A) and refined products, between B and C according to their salt content.
  • For composite products (ready-to-eat meals, pizzas, etc.): these products are generally shifted towards less favourable classifications, moving on average from classes A-B to classes B-C or even D for certain product categories such as pizzas.

For the other food groups, the classifications generally remain unchanged.

The changes identified here are changes on average. Of course, given the variability that can be observed in the nutritional composition of food products, there is variability in the Nutri-Score classification, with some specific products having a more favourable classification, others less favourable…depending on their nutritional composition.

  • For fats, nuts and seeds

Nuts are no longer included in the ‘fruit and vegetables’ component of the Nutri-Score. However, they are also no longer classified in the main algorithm for general foods, but with fats, due to their high fat content.

In this product category, the changes to the Nutri-Score include :

  • A change in the definition of the energy component, now calculated on the basis of energy from saturated fatty acids, with a point allocation step of 120KJ/point
  • For this category only, oils extracted from ingredients that are part of the ‘fruits and vegetables’ definition (such as avocado or olive oils for example) are included in the perimeter of the fruit and vegetable component that provides positive points for the calculation of the score.
  • A change in the threshold where points for protein are no longer taken into account in the calculation of the overall score (protein cap threshold), from 11 to 7 points
  • A change in the threshold between A and B, to -6/-5, with the other thresholds remaining the same as in the main algorithm for general foods

Overall, these modifications allow the following changes:

  • An improvement for vegetable oils: in general, vegetable oils are improved by one class of the Nutri-Score. Vegetable oils with low levels of saturated fatty acids (rapeseed, walnut, oleic sunflower oil) can reach the B classification, as does olive oil. Sunflower oil is shifted to the C category.
  • A better discrimination for nuts and seeds without added salt or sugar, which are mostly classified in A or B, while salted and/or sweetened versions are on average in C or even D.
  • For the other products in the category, the classification remains unchanged, with coconut oil and butter remaining classified as E in the Nutri-Score.

OVERALL, the modifications recommended by the Scientific Committee of the Nutri-Score allow for a correction of some limitations identified for the Nutri-Score, while maintaining the overall consistency of the system and the general classification of the products among themselves. Overall, there is a better alignment between the Nutri-Score classifications and the nutritional recommendations of the various European countries that have adopted the Nutri-Score.

Read also the press release of the European Steering Committee in charge of the Transnational Governance of the Nutri-score: The 7 countries involved adopt an improved algorithm for food