The Nutri-Score logo
is based on the British Food Standards Agency’s Nutrient Profiling System
, which is calculated for each food or beverage using a 100-gram content measure for energy (calories), sugar, saturated fatty acids, sodium, fiber and proteins. The profiling system has been used in the UK to regulate food advertising to children since 2007.
The new five-tier nutritional coding Nutri-Score system, which calculates food quality using the same method as the British standard, is unique; unlike the British system, Nutri-Score uses both colors (from dark green to dark orange) and grades (from A for the “highest nutritional quality” to E for the “lowest nutritional quality”) so consumers can understand the quality of a food at a glance.
“The Nutri-Score has received the official support of health authorities in France and more recently in Belgium. However, its application cannot be mandatory because of the European Union labelling regulations,” Deschasaux and Touvier explained in an email. However, 33 food manufacturers and companies, including Danone, Fleury Michon and McCain, have begun to voluntarily adopt the system.
This EU review and debate process is expected to come later in the year, with adoption and implementation of a standard nutritional labeling system for all EU countries “expected to follow,” according to the authors: “Similar discussions are also ongoing in North and South America, Canada, and Australia.”
The aim of the new study
, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, was to provide scientific evidence of the value of the British Food Standards Agency system as an underlying basis for the Nutri-Score system, Deschasaux and Touvier said.
The researchers examined the diets of 471,495 adults from 10 European countries through the Nutri-Score lens. They used the British Nutrient Profiling System to calculate a Nutri-Score for the usual diet — the self-reported foods and beverages commonly eaten — of each participant.
A total score reflecting a lower-nutritional-quality diet was associated with a higher risk of total cancer: Cancer rates among those with the highest junk food scores were 81.4 cases per 10,000 person years (separately, the rate for men was 115.9 and for women, 66.6), versus 69.5 cases per 10,000 person years (89.6 for men and 61.1 for women) among those with the lowest junk food scores.
(Person years is an estimate of time for all the participants in the study that allows researchers to measure cancer risk regardless of how long a person remained in the study due to death or other factors.)
People who ate the most junk food showed a higher risk of colorectal, respiratory tract (lips, mouth, tongue, nose, throat, vocal cords and part of the esophagus and windpipe), and stomach cancers. Separately, men showed a higher risk of lung cancer, and women showed a higher risk of liver and postmenopausal breast cancers.