The composition and quality of food rations and the intake of nutrients with the diet are undoubtedly reflected in our health. In order to help the consumer choose the right food product, food manufacturers use front-of-pack labels, which are designed to convey concise information about the nutritional value of the product. Such labels include the Nutri-Score system. In this paper, we have critically analyzed this system. As the available data indicate, this system does not take into account a number of factors that affect the quality of a food product, including the size of the package, the contents of vitamins, minerals, and other selected health-promoting ingredients, the degree of processing, or the fatty acid profile of the product, and it discriminates against regional products, organic products, and juices and nectars. This system, although intuitive and created with good intentions, still has quite a few flaws that must be addressed before it can be considered to correctly indicate the nutritional value of food products.
Nutri-Score is a food nutritional index developed in France, which was designed to evaluate and rank food products to help the consumer make more informed and healthy food choices. Numerous studies have indicated that, indeed, the Nutri-Score system, as judged by the consumer, is easy to interpret and user-friendly.
Despite the enthusiasm for this labeling system, one is puzzled by the lack of thought given to its limitations in assessing the nutritional value of food and the disconnect between the information provided and the nutrient content not included in the algorithm, the size of the packages, the portion of the product traditionally consumed, the amount consumed within the dietary recommendations, the role of particular products in the diet, the degree of processing of the food, how the product is manufactured, the use of food additives, and some of the dietary recommendations.
Like any system, the Nutri-Score is not free of flaws. As the literature shows, the Nutri-Score may not promote a lower intake of simple sugars and a lower energy value of the dietary ration. In addition, misinterpretation of this index may lead to dietary restriction of foods rich in important nutrients, such as fatty marine fish, juices and nectars, cereal products with a low glycemic index, and products that affect the quality of the diet, such as traditionally produced regional and organic products. The Nutri-Score can also become a tool for promoting ultra-processed foods, in which the composition of individual ingredients included in the algorithm for evaluation is modified.
If the Nutri-Score system is to become a widely used front-of-pack label, it should be refined, take into account food ingredients that have a positive impact on consumer health, and pay attention to the issues raised above in order to perform its function properly. Future research should focus on assessing the risk of creating inappropriate behavior and dietary errors, including the elimination of selected product groups, by consumers, and the possibilities of preventive measures. The easy-to-interpret designation used in the Nutri-Score index by consumers is an advantage but also a disadvantage at the same time. It seems that by using a simple designation, the essential function it should perform is lost at the same time, i.e., to help match the diet with the recommendations of proper nutrition. Repeatedly emphasized by the system’s creators, its favorable reception by consumers actually testifies to good recognition of the universally accepted color code, where green means “safe” and red means “danger”. However, whether this will translate into better choices by consumers when buying food in the future remains an open question that needs to be investigated. Research should also focus on the possibility of improving the Nutri-Score algorithm to eliminate the aforementioned flaws and lead to the correct communication of nutritional information about a food product to the consumer.
All publications: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/22/4843