UFC-Que Choisir – a consumer association founded in France in 1951, with 160 offices throughout the country – has published two reports demonstrating both the benefit of NutriScore for local, traditional products and the improvement in the nutritional quality of products from it stimulated.
1) NutriScore, full marks to traditional and local products
The report published on May 10, 2022 by UFC-Que Choisir out of 588 references relating to 310 local and traditional food products from 13 French regions shows how the vast majority (62%) of them have a favorable NutriScore score (A, B and C). (1) In most cases, their consumption is encouraged precisely because of their better nutritional quality. In fact, there are 121 local and traditional foods with an A and B score, as well as olive oils (score C, 7 products) which the NutriScore recommends over other fats. A reconfirmation of the falsehood of the theorems of Coldiretti and of the Italian politicians on his leash. (2)
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Foods traditional balanced (NutriScore scores A and B) include:
- 30 local dishes, includinghochepot flamande (pork, beef and sheep and goat meat stew), the potée d'Auvergne (cabbage soup with sausage and bacon), la cassoulet from Castelnaudary (bean and sausage casserole),
- meat and poultry (34 products), including Camargue PDO bull, Limousin Label Rouge veal, Bigorre PDO black pig and Mont-Saint-Michel PDO salted meadow lamb,
- numerous vegetables, fruits and legumes (37 products) such as Northern endive, Nantaise lamb's lettuce PGI, Roussillon red apricot PDO, Quercy melon PGI, Puy green lentils PGI and Vendée PGI beans. (3)
2) The nutritional quality of foods improves (only) thanks to NutriScore
The favorable impact of the NutriScore on the nutritional quality of food products finds evidence in the latest report from UFC-Que Choisir, released on April 12, 2023. (4) The association's researchers have:
- identified seven food categories with significant levels of saturated fat, sugar or salt, where producers have ample scope to reformulate their recipes,
- compared the offer of these food categories on the French market, between 2015 and 2022, to evaluate the overall changes in NutriScore scores,
- evaluated the evolution of nutritional profiles on a basket of 169.000 food references distributed in France and surveyed in the app 'QuelProduit' by UFC-Que Choisir.
2.1) Cereal bars, bread and rusks, breakfast cereals
An improvement between 2015 and 2022, the extraordinary nutritional quality of shelf-store foods on the French market was observed on three product categories where the NutriScore is most frequently displayed:
- cereal bars. The percentage of products with NutriScore scores A, B and C doubled (from 25% to 49%),
- bread, rusks and baked goods. In this category, the best scores, A and B, reached almost two-thirds of the labels reporting the NutriScore (from 40% to 62%).
- breakfast cereals. In just 7 years, between 2015 and 2022, the share of products with NutriScore A and B nearly quintupled (from 8% to 38%).
The analysis some data collected through the app 'QuelProduit' shows significant progress, in these three categories, between 2020 and 2022. With important reductions in saturated fats (-44%) and sugars (-17%), salt (-8%), and increases in fiber (+9 %).
2.2) Confectionery products and condiments, little NutriScore and little progress
The survey by UFC-Que Choisir also demonstrates the correlation between the use of the NutriScore and the improvement of the nutritional quality of foods with proof to the contrary. The four food categories where the NutriScore is practically absent are populated with junk food (junk food: junk food), with minimal variations between 2015 and 2022:
- biscuits and cakes maintain the worst NutriScore scores, E and D, in 89% of the references (compared to 97% in 2015),
- bars and snack chocolate cakes remain at the bottom of the list, with 90% of E and D scores (up from 99% in 2015). With a glimmer of light, NutriScore C, which appeared on 7% of the products,
- ice creams and sorbets recorded a slight improvement, with a 'class C' passing from 38 to 44% in the period 2015-2022 and a corresponding reduction, from 62% to 52%, of the worst scores (D,E),
- seasoning sauces remain stable, and there is even an increase in the products with the absolute worst score, E, from 25 to 28%.
3) The real enemies of NutriScore (and public health)
The real enemies of the NutriScore are the Corporation of junk food, which contribute substantially to the epidemic of obesity, overweight and incurable, serious and chronic diseases (NCDs, Non-Communicable Diseases). By externalizing the costs of their irresponsible manufacturing practices to the public health e marketing predatory (UNICEF, 2019) of junk food (5,6)
The analysis of UFC-Que Choisir – demonstrating the above – illustrates the names of leader market in France, in the four categories indicated above (see par. 2.2), which oppose the NutriScore:
- Bahlsen, Ferrero (Brands Nutella, Kinder, Delacre), Mondelez (Cadbury, Lu, Milka, Oreo, Pepito, Suchard…), Yildiz Holding (BN) in the biscuits and confectionery sectors (where 83% of brand opposes the NutriScore),
- General Mills (Häagen-Dazs), Ferrero (Kinder), Mars Inc. (Bounty, Mars, Snickers), Mondelez (Milka, Oreos), Unilever (Carte d'Or, Ben & Jerry's, Magnum) in the ice cream sector (where 99% of brands oppose the NutriScore),
- Unilever (Amora, Maille), Kraft Heinz (Heinz, Benedicta), in the condiments sector (where 90% of brands hide their nutritional profiles.
4) NutriScore, public health and consumer education
NutriScore it is an indispensable and urgent public health tool, with the dual purpose of helping:
- consumers, to understand the role of foods in the context of a balanced Mediterranean diet, as also demonstrated in Italy, (7)
- the operators of the supply chain (industry, distribution) to improve the nutritional quality of the foods available on the market.
5) Provisional conclusions
Voluntariness of the NutriScore is today the only obstacle to achieving these objectives, given that today in France only 1% of the products with the worst score (E) show it on the label.
'Junk food companies stubbornly refuse to list it on their products, and this opacity numbs any incentive to lighten recipes. Only the obligation to display the NutriScore on the label will push junk food producers to improve their recipes!' (UFC-Que Choisir).
We open our eyes and we invite all citizens and consumers to demand transparency on nutritional profiles on food labels, we claim the right to health and informed consumption choices! (8)
(1) Action UFC-Que Choisir (2022). Enquête de l'UFC-Que Choisir sur les aliments traditionnels https://www.quechoisir.org/action-ufc-que-choisir-enquete-de-l-ufc-que-choisir-sur-les-aliments-traditionnels-le-nutri-score-meilleure-illustration-de-la-qualite-nutritionnelle-de-notre-patrimoine-culinaire-n100652/
(2) Dario Dongo. NutriScore, Professor Serge Hercberg corrects the fake news by the Italian minister. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.3.22
(3) The 73 local and traditional foods that obtained a NutriScore C, in the UFC-Que Choisir survey referred to in footnote 1, include Alsatian spaetzle pasta, Burgundy parsley ham, make Breton (a flan similar to custard) and the cancoillotte de Franche Comté (a cream cheese)
(4) UFC-Que Choisir, Service des études et du lobbying (2023). L'efficacité du NutriScore à améliorer les recipes bridée par son voluntaire application https://www.quechoisir.org/action-ufc-que-choisir-nutri-score-seule-une-obligation-de-l-afficher-poussera-les-industriels-de-la-malbouffe-a-ameliorer-leurs-recettes-n107018/?dl=115766
(5) Dario Dongo, Sabrina Bergamini. Climate, predatory marketing and children's health. Unicef report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 21.2.20
(6) Dario Dongo. EUPHA, stop at marketing of junk food aimed at children and adolescents. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 25.3.23
(7) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Italian scientific study confirms the effectiveness of NutriScore. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 7.1.23
(8) Dario Dongo. The EU public health, EUPHA, indicates NutriScore as the best option of FoPNL. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 20.3.23