Nutri-Score : que signifie-t-il réellement ?

Nutri-Score: what does it really mean?

Jan 29, 2024

In a world where food choices abound and nutritional information can be confusing, finding simple guidelines for adopting a healthy diet is becoming more and more crucial. That's where Nutri-Score comes in, a nutrition labeling system designed to help consumers make informed choices when shopping for food. But how does it actually work? And how can you use it to improve your daily diet?

What is the Nutri-Score?

Nutri-Score is a nutrition labeling system created in France in 2017, which has since been adopted by several other European countries such as Belgium, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. It ranks foods according to their overall nutritional quality by assigning each a score based on their nutritional composition. This score is then represented on a scale of five levels, ranging from dark green (A) to dark red (E).

This scale of colors and letters allows consumers to quickly identify the healthiest foods compared to those that are less recommended. The Nutri-Score was developed with the aim of simplifying consumers' understanding of nutritional information, thereby helping them make informed decisions when purchasing food.

The effectiveness of Nutri-Score has been confirmed by numerous scientific studies. This research notably validated the nutritional algorithm underlying the Nutri-Score, showing its ability to distinguish the nutritional quality of foods in accordance with dietary recommendations.

How does Nutri-Score work?

The Nutri-Score works by providing a simplified assessment of the nutritional quality of food products . To do this, it takes into account several key elements of the nutritional composition of a food, more particularly:

  • Nutrients and foods to promote such as fiber, proteins, fruits, legumes, nuts, rapeseed, nut, olive oils, etc. These elements are considered beneficial for health and are therefore valued in the calculation of the Nutri-Score.
  • Nutrients to limit including calories, saturated fatty acids, sugars and salt. These elements are associated with an increased risk of health problems when consumed in excess, and are therefore taken into account in the calculation of the Nutri-Score to indicate the overall nutritional quality of the food.

From these criteria, each food receives an overall score, which is then converted into a letter and color corresponding to the Nutri-Score scale. This logo is awarded based on a score calculated for 100 grams or 100 milliliters of product, which allows for a fairer comparison between different foods, regardless of their weight or volume .

How to interpret a Nutri-Score?

The interpretation of the Nutri-Score is done by considering the letter and color assigned to each food on a scale of five levels, ranging from dark green (A) to dark red (E). Here is how to interpret these classifications:

  • Nutri-Score A (dark green): Foods rated A are considered to have the best nutritional quality. They are rich in health-promoting nutrients and generally contain lower levels of calories, sugars, saturated fat and salt. They are therefore to be favored in a balanced diet.
  • Nutri-Score B (light green): Foods rated B are also of good nutritional quality, although slightly less favorable than those rated A. They may contain slightly higher levels of certain nutrients to limit, but are still healthy choices in all.
  • Nutri-Score C (yellow): Foods rated C are considered average in terms of nutritional quality. They may contain moderate amounts of beneficial nutrients, but also higher levels of nutrients to limit. They can be included in moderation in a balanced diet.
  • Nutri-Score D (orange): Foods rated D are less nutritionally favorable. They generally have higher levels of calories, sugars, saturated fats or salt, and should therefore be limited in the diet.
  • Nutri-Score E (dark red): Foods rated E have the lowest nutritional quality. They are high in nutrients that should be limited and can contribute to health problems if consumed in excess. They should be avoided as much as possible as part of a healthy diet.

The Nutri-Score allows you to compare similar products from different brands or sold in the same department. However, it is important to note that this is not always a good tool for comparing different products . For example, for yogurts, which can be rated A, B or C, Nutri-Score C represents the lowest possible score. On the other hand, for oils, which can be rated C, D or E, the Nutri-Score C is the best possible score.

It is essential to understand that each food category has its own scoring criteria. Thus, on a daily basis, it is not necessary to seek to consume only products with a Nutri-Score A or B. Foods classified D and E can also be part of a balanced diet, provided they are consumed in a manner occasional and in small quantities.

The Impact of the Nutri-Score on public health

Since its introduction, the Nutri-Score has been widely recognized as a crucial public health tool, particularly in the fight against obesity and diet-associated diseases. Research has shown that the use of Nutri-Score on food packaging can have a significant impact on consumer choices . By opting for products rated higher on the Nutri-Score scale, consumers are more encouraged to reduce their consumption of foods high in calories, sugars and saturated fats. This trend therefore promotes a more balanced and nutritious diet.

In addition, the Nutri-Score stands out for its simplicity and accessibility . Studies have confirmed that this nutritional labeling system is well perceived and understood by consumers. Thanks to its clarity and ease of use, the Nutri-Score effectively guides consumers towards healthier food choices. This simplified understanding of the nutritional quality of foods helps to raise awareness among individuals of the importance of a balanced diet.

Furthermore, research has established a significant correlation between Nutri-Score, overall diet quality and consumer health. By favoring the selection of foods rated higher on the Nutri-Score scale, individuals tend to adopt diets that are more beneficial for their long-term health. This association reinforces the importance of the Nutri-Score as a tool for promoting public health and preventing diet-related chronic diseases.

How to use Nutri-Score to improve your diet?

First of all, it is recommended to refer to the Nutri-Score when shopping for food. The objective is to locate this logo on packaging to favor, if possible, foods classified A or B which offer the best nutritional quality. Conversely, it is best to avoid foods classified D or E as much as possible, which indicate lower nutritional quality. When several options present themselves, it is therefore wise to consult the Nutri-Score in order to compare the products and choose the one which presents the best nutritional quality .

Additionally, it is important not to limit yourself only to foods rated A or B. It is essential to keep in mind that foods rated C can also contribute to a balanced diet, especially when consumed in moderation. It is recommended to diversify your diet by including a wide variety of foods from different categories. Additionally, there may be cases where foods naturally high in fat or sugar provide other health benefits. In such situations, it is recommended to exercise discretion and take a holistic approach to nutritional balance.

Limitations of the Nutri-Score

The Nutri-Score, although a useful tool, has some limitations that should be considered. First of all, it doesn't cover all aspects of nutrition . For example, naturally high-fat foods like avocados or nuts may score less favorably due to their high calorie and fat content. In these situations, it is important to consider other nutritional factors and not rely solely on the Nutri-Score.

Additionally, the Nutri-Score does not take into account other important elements such as additives, pesticides or the degree of food processing . This gap is due to the lack of sufficient scientific data to integrate all these dimensions into the same score. However, revisions planned for 2024 could improve the rating of certain foods, including fatty fish and oils rich in good fats.

It is also important to emphasize that the use of the Nutri-Score is not subject to legal obligation . Food companies can therefore choose to adopt it voluntarily, which highlights the importance of educating consumers about its benefits and limitations.

What should change in 2024

The forecasts for the evolution of the Nutri-Score in 2024 bring significant changes. Indeed, the European scientific committee of Nutri-Score proposed a revision of the algorithm in order to better align the logo with the dietary recommendations of the countries concerned, to take into account scientific advances and to adapt to changes in the food supply. This gradual update should begin in spring 2024 in France .

This development aims to improve product comparability. One of the main modifications will consist of integrating the presence of sweeteners into the calculation , in order to prevent manufacturers from using them as substitutes for sugar to improve the rating of their products. Thus, soft drinks low in sugar and containing sweeteners will now be classified from C to E rather than benefiting from a B grade.

Furthermore, wholemeal flour products, naturally rich in fiber, will benefit from improved scores compared to their less nutritious counterparts. Poultry will benefit from a higher classification than red meat, due to the need to limit its consumption. These adjustments will impact a significant percentage of products , approximately 30 to 40% of them.

In short, the Nutri-Score presents itself as a reliable and useful tool for health-conscious consumers who want to adopt a balanced diet. By providing a clear assessment of the nutritional quality of food products, it facilitates informed purchasing decisions. By integrating the Nutri-Score into your food choices, it is therefore possible to help improve your long-term health and well-being.

References :

Public health France. (Updated January 26, 2024). Nutri-Score.

Public health France. (January 18, 2024). Nutri-Score: an update on the new products for 2024.

Ministry of Labor, Health and Solidarity. Scientific studies and reports.

Eat move. (September 08, 2021). Nutri-Score: the answers to your questions.

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