The nutrition and health claims displayed on foods seem to have considerable influence on shoppers' decisions to purchase. In this context, the European Commission wished to define the conditions under which products may use these statements. Following a request to provide evidence defining the French position on the matter, the Agency issued a report in 2008.
The article has been added to your library
Updated on 03/05/2013
Presentation and role of ANSES
The existence of a link between diet and health has now been clearly demonstrated. Foodplays a role in the prevention of a number of chronic diseases and conversely may alsobe a risk factor for the onset of certain diseases.
The existence of this link is increasingly clear in the minds of consumers, and it seems that,when making their purchase choices, some of the population favours foods presented as having a health benefit. Consequently, making a claim on the labelling could be regarded as a commercial advantage encouraging consumers to buy a particular product.
On this basis, the European Commission launched a debate to define the conditions under which these claims could be used and thus to avoid encouraging the consumption of products that could contribute to an unbalanced diet. The Commission wishes the overall composition of food to be taken into account when using product claims, to prevent a product that is generally poor from a nutritional standpoint improving its image by a claim. This debate is rooted in the context of Regulation (EC) 1924/2006 of 20 December 2006 on nutrition and health claims.
What are nutrient profiles?
Nutrient profiling of foods is a new concept that aims to classify foods based on a number of criteria, in particular their nutritional composition.
However, it should be noted that there are no "good" or "bad" foods and that no single food is likely to provide all the nutrients necessary for a balanced diet. Diet is above all a question of balance and diversity and there are many ways to achieve this overall. It is the foods we choose to consume that determine whether our diet is balanced or not.
Nutrient profiling can be used to determine the conditions according to which claims can be used. It is in this context, and only in order to determine which foods may make such claims, that this work was carried out by the Agency.
The work of the Agency
Based on a critical review of the existing nutrient profiling tools, the Agency proposed a unique nutrient profiling system, based on previously published tools. The tool developed by the Agency is a transverse system, i.e. applicable to all foods, and is based on the computation of two scores:
TheSAIN: score reflecting individual compliance with the nutritional recommendations.
Calculated from a defined number of nutrients referred to as "qualifying", this value represents the extent to which needs are met, expressed as an average percentage, for these nutrients of interest. The nutrients included in the calculation of the SAIN are those whose consumption should be encouraged because they are insufficiently consumed in relation to the public health recommendations.
The LIM: score of nutrients to limit.
Calculated from a defined number of nutrients referred to as "disqualifying", this indicator is the average percentage by which dietary recommendations are exceeded for these nutrients. The nutrients included in this index were selected because population intakes are higher than the public health recommendations.
The SAIN and LIM are calculated for each food to be classified. The food is thus awarded two scores. Whether or not claims can be used is determined by two threshold values, a SAIN value, corresponding to a minimum to achieve, and a LIM value not to be exceeded.
A practical, flexible tool undergoing continued development
This tool proposed by the Agency, which is flexible and adaptable to changing public health recommendations, also has the advantage that it can be used for all foods without needing to consider each category separately. Because it is flexible with regard to the nutrients included in the calculation, the proposed tool can easily take into account the exemptions provided for by European regulations.
Beyond these initial encouraging results, other forms of validation are still needed, especially using appropriate mathematical models and consumption data. The choice of the nutrient profiling tool to use is still under discussion at the European Commission.