Can Instant soup match organic hummus?

In the ongoing discussion on the actual value of the Nutri-Score system, interesting new comparisons are emerging. This time on the pages of Portal Spożywczy an evaluation of the practical functioning of the Nutri-Score system was published by Katarzyna Rada, owner and originator of the service

The evaluation of the methodology and how it will translate into product labelling on shop shelves has long been a source of concern for the agri-food industry. Among the main objections is that the Nutri-Score stigmatizes natural, local, traditional, regional or organic products.

In the above article Katarzyna Reda points out that Nutri-Score food labelling was intended to stop the incidence of civilization diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer by influencing purchasing decisions. The developers of the system aim to reduce the consumption of salt, sugars, saturated fatty acids. The fruit, vegetable, nut, vitamin, fibre and protein content will positively influence the rating. However, nutritionists point out that this is a very selective catalogue of ingredients and does not show the full value of products, as shows the following comparison.

Katarzyna Rada compared products available in shops using the Nutri-Score calculator:

  • Paprika biohummus
  • Turkey ham
  • Chicken tenderloin
  • Chicken flavour instant soup

All the above products received an identical C rating on a yellow warning background. According to the system they should be consumed in moderation. However, when analysed more deeply and in more detail, it  becomes clear that an identical assessment is unjustified. The composition of the pepper biohummus (cooked chickpea 52%, (chickpea, water), marinated red peppers 15% (red peppers, spirit vinegar), sesame paste Tahini 12% (rapeseed oil, water, cane sugar, salt, dried garlic, romaine cumin, chilli flakes) mostly comes from organic farming. In addition, the product does not contain preservatives, stabilisers, flavour enhancers. It is entirely a plant-based product.

However, it is difficult to understand, why an instant chicken flavor soup, with three flavor enhancers, stabilisers and anti-caking agents, a large amount of salt and palm fat, also received the same C grade, even though it contained WHEAT flour, palm fat, tapioca, salt, modified starch, sugar, stabilizers: triphosphates, guar gum; raising agents: potassium carbonate, sodium carbonate; turmeric, flavorings (6%): salt, refined palm oil, flavor enhancers: monosodium glutamate, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate;  sugar, pepper, dried leek (1%), maltodextrin, aroma, colours: caramel, carotenes; garlic (0,6%), soya protein hydrolyzate, anti-caking agent: E 551; antioxydant: E 300.

A similar problem arises when looking at the composition of chicken tenderloin. (Ingredients: Chicken fillet meat (105 g meat was used to prepare 100 g of the product), potato starch, salt extracts: vegetable (contains celery),fruit and spices, spices, aroma and also turkey ham (ingredients: turkey meat 91%, salt, modified starch, stabilizer E451, glucose syrup, glucose, collagen poultry protein, thickening agent E407, bamboo fibre, antioxidant E 301, spices extract, flavourings, preservative E250). Both products have a much shorter ingredient list than the Instant soup and yet receive a C rating as does the chicken-flavoured Instant soup.

Katarzyna Rada also confirms the experts’ doubts about the colours used. Their suggestiveness – green in the common perception is a positive evaluation, and orange and red at least a warning or negation. So even at this level the Nutri-Score system quite clearly influences the perception of individual products.

According to the expert, the Nutri-Score system is not precise enough in indicating the recommended amounts to be consumed. Terms such as consume more or more often , or consume in moderation or limitation are subjective and do not provide a point of reference such as the food pyramid the presentation of the number of portions of each type of food in the form of a plate. The Nutri-Score system will thus not provide a clear indication of what an optimal diet should look like – is too general.

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