Why would the Nutri-Score no longer be sufficient to assess the quality of food?

Why would the Nutri-Score no longer be sufficient to assess the quality of food?


  • According to the Italian study, one in five deaths is caused by an unhealthy diet.
  • Various studies have confirmed that a high consumption of ultra-processed foods could increase the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol and even certain cancers.

Developed in France, the Nutri-Score is a tool that indicates the nutritional quality of a food using a scale of five colors (from dark green to dark orange) associated with letters (A to E). Currently, the European Commission is studying a proposal for front-of-pack nutrition labeling for products sold in supermarkets. The aim would be to adopt a harmonized and compulsory nutrition labeling system in all Member States. The Nutri-Score is given as a favorite.

Using the NOVA scale to assess the degree of food processing

But a recent study published in the British Medical Journal suggested that the Nutri-Score would not be sufficient to assess the health risks of certain foods. According to the work, the degree of processing of food products should also be mentioned on the labelling. In question ? Ultra-processed foods pose more health risks than poor food composition, according to Italian scientists.

To reach these conclusions, 22,895 participants with an average age of 55 were followed for 12 years. During the study, their state of health was regularly monitored and was associated with their eating habits. The researchers took into account the nutritional composition and degree of processing of the food.

During the research, the study authors also studied two food classification systems: the Nutri-Score and the NOVA scale which determines the degree of food processing. Ultra-processed products generally contain additives such as sweeteners, preservatives or antioxidants. In supermarkets, some foods that seem to have good nutritional quality are actually ultra-processed. This is particularly the case for certain cereals, yoghurts or even rusks.

Give more information on ultra-processed products

The results of the study confirmed that the consumption of nutrient-poor and/or ultra-processed foods increases the risks of cardiovascular diseases, cancers and mortality. “But when we studied both the nutritional composition of the diet and its level of processing, it appeared that the degree of processing is essential to define the risk of mortality. Indeed, more than 80% of foods classified as unhealthy by the Nutri-Score are also ultra-transformed”, pointed out Marialaura Bonaccio, epidemiologist from the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at IRCCS Neuromed in Pozzilli (Italy) and lead author of the study. Before adding: “VSThis suggests that the increased risk of mortality is not directly due to the poor nutritional quality of certain products, but rather to the fact that these foods are mostly ultra-processed.

To prevent the risk of cardiovascular disease, the Italian team therefore suggested the establishment of a nutritional labeling system integrating information on the nutritional quality and the degree of processing of a food product.

“For a truly effective prevention strategy, we need to focus on foods that the Nutri-Score classifies as nutritionally sound, but which are also ultra-processed. This is the case, for example, of certain drinks, with a reduced sugar content and obtaining the letter B in the Nutri-Score, but which are in fact highly processed. Or certain yoghurts and cold desserts, low in fat, but containing a strong list of food additives “explained Giuseppe Grosso, associate professor at the University of Catania and one of the authors of the study.