New food traffic light provides more clarity: Paderborn University scientist involved in improving the Nutri-Score

 |  SustainabilityPress releaseExercise and HealthInstitut für Ernährung, Konsum und GesundheitPublic Health Nutrition

Which plant milk has the best nutritional values and which muesli best supports me in eating a balanced diet? The Nutri-Score has been helping consumers find their way around the supermarket shelves for several years. With the help of the colour-coded labelling system, foods in a product category can be compared at a glance. The scientific committee of independent scientists responsible for developing the Nutri-Score has now further developed the algorithm on which the system is based. In future, the scores should be even more consistent with the national nutritional recommendations of the countries using the Nutri-Score. Prof Dr Anette Buyken, head of the "Public Health Nutrition" working group at the Institute of Nutrition, Consumption and Health, was also part of the committee. The results have now been published by the specialist journal "Nature Food".

Since 2020, food manufacturers in Germany have been able to indicate the Nutri-Score on the front of packaged and processed products. The further developed algorithm for determining the Nutri-Score has been in force since 1 January this year. Companies have a transitional period of two to three years to implement this. Favourable nutrients or ingredients such as fibre, protein, fruit and vegetables are weighted positively, while excessive levels of salt, sugar and saturated fatty acids are weighted negatively. The Nutri-Score refers to 100 grams or 100 millilitres of a product. 

Sugar, salt and sweeteners

The changes include stricter assessments of foods with comparatively high sugar and salt content. "A more favourable assessment is possible for low-sugar drinks. This will further increase the differentiation of foods based on their sugar content.In addition, drinks with artificial sweeteners will achieve poorer results in future so as not to incentivise the use of sweeteners," explains Buyken.

Unsaturated fatty acids promote positive ratings

Low-fibre cereal products are rated less favourably than the high-fibre variants. As a result, wholemeal breads will score better than conventional breads in future. "Vegetable oils with a high content of nutritionally favourable unsaturated fatty acids will achieve better ratings in future. This also applies in principle to products containing fatty fish," says Buyken. Processed foods with white meat will be prioritised over alternatives with red meat in order to ensure better compliance with current nutritional recommendations.

Drinks algorithm for better comparison of milk (drinks) and plant-based drinks

In future, all foods that are consumed will be subject to the drinks algorithm. This means that milk drinks will no longer be assessed using the algorithm for general foods, as was previously the case. Water remains the only beverage that can achieve an A rating. For milk drinks and plant-based drinks, it is primarily the fat and sugar content that determines the Nutri-Score rating. Sweetened milk drinks are therefore rated lower than their unsweetened alternatives depending on their sugar content.

"By revising the algorithm, the Nutri-Score now takes better account of new scientific findings and nutritional recommendations. It enables consumers to compare foods and choose a healthy and balanced diet. . At the same time, we were able to eliminate inconsistencies from the early years," says Buyken, who worked on the revision together with other independent scientists. A maximum of two members of the committee come from the same country. In addition to Buyken, Dr Benedikt Merz from the Max Rubner Institute represents Germany.

The study is available online.

This text has been translated automatically.

Photo (Paderborn University, Thorsten Hennig): Foods with high sugar and salt content will receive stricter Nutri-Score ratings in future. The scientific committee has further developed the algorithm on which the labelling system is based.
Photo (Paderborn University, Besim Mazhiqi): Prof Dr Anette Buyken from Paderborn University is a member of the Nutri-Score scientific committee.