Nutri-Score: promoting "zero nutritional value" products"? Food for thought!

By Jean-Paul TORRIS, Savencia Fromage & Dairy's CEO


What if a "good" Nutri-Score does not necessarily guarantee the nutritional quality of a food product? Unfortunately, this is an aspect raised by many observers. Of course, the initial idea was a good one: introduced by Santé Publique France (France's public health agency), the Nutri-Score label is designed to provide information that helps consumers to improve the quality of their diet and stay healthy. So why question its relevance? In my last editorial, I explored "portioning". Today I wanted to highlight another weakness of the formula: the Nutri-Score does not consider the nutritional values of a food as a whole or factor in its degree of processing, but is based on so-called "reductionist" composition criteria. As a result, highly processed, low-nutrient products with a long list of ingredients often obtain excellent scores, even though their regular consumption is not recommended. I'll give you a speaking example: a glass of milk and a glass of soda with sweeteners can have the same Nutri-Score, but the former is naturally rich in nutrients (and recommended by the PNNS*) while the latter is a food with no nutritional values. Zero calories, maybe, but zero values as well!


If the Nutri-Score, basically created to fight against "junk food", favours these "zero" or even "unhealthy" foods, how can we find our way around? We need to consider a food's health potential by looking beyond its strict nutritional composition, and particularly its fat, salt and sugar content. How can we explain the fact that 80% of cheeses are rated D by the Nutri-Score even though the daily consumption of one portion of cheese is recommended by the PNNS*? The reason for this contradiction lies in one word: the product's "matrix" (the combination of its various components). This matrix does in fact play a decisive role in nutrients' bioavailability, i.e. the way in which they are absorbed by the body and provide it with all their benefits (vitamins, proteins, minerals like calcium, fatty acids, etc.).


Thus, in addition to the fats that give them smoothness and flavour, and the salt essential to their production, cheeses have exceptional nutritional advantages completely overlooked by the Nutri-Score. They particularly stand out for their beneficial content in terms of proteins, minerals, trace elements (calcium, zinc, potassium, etc.) and vitamins (A, B2, B9, B12, D, etc.). The essential amino acid content of their proteins ensures almost 95% digestibility: however, even if the average protein content in soft ripened and hard cheeses is 20%, the Nutri-Score assigns no positive points to them beyond 8% of protein. The same performance and same deficiency apply with vitamins (A, B, D, E) and calcium: these nutrients are not highlighted by the Nutri-Score.

Through this forum and the example of my beloved cheese, I also want to continue my crusade for #PositiveFood. We don't eat to avoid harming ourselves; we eat to do ourselves good – so let's restore pleasure to its rightful place! A healthy diet should be as balanced and natural as possible, and cheese has a legitimate role to play here. The recipes we offer on are made with raw, little-processed ingredients, have Nutri-Scores of A and B and are a way of combining enjoyment and health. Let's give our meals a fresh boost by seeing the whole picture, and looking beyond labels that are useful but potentially reductive.


*PNNS = Programme national nutrition santé (French National Nutrition and Health Programme) 


#PositiveFood #AlimentationPositive #Savencia