NutriScore logo could help young people make healthier food choices – but more awareness is needed

22 Jun 2022

The European Nutri-Score labelling system can help young people make healthier food choices, according to a Spanish study – but one third still do not know what the label indicates.

The Nutri-Score system is an optional front-of-pack scoring label – adapted from the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) traffic light nutrition label – aimed at driving healthier food choices among consumers. It is the official nutrition logo in France, although its use is voluntary. It has also been endorsed by Belgian, Spanish, German and Dutch health authorities as well as the European Commission and the World Health Organization.

NutriScore logo could help young people make healthier food choices – but more awareness is needed

Its aim is to summarise “a set of unintelligible numbers and terms of nutritional values, located on the back of the packaging, based on a coloured logo that is easily understood by consumers,” by categorising products from a green ‘A’ to a red ‘E’, said the researchers of a recent cross-section observational survey study.

The researchers questioned 161 university students, faced for the first time with the responsibilities of living outside of the family group, in the social and contact networks of the Mediterrani University School, Barcelona.

The majority (64%) of the students surveyed did not read any labels on food products and found it difficult to identify the degree of wholesomeness of what they consume, said the authors, led by Joan-Francesc Fondevila-Gascón, from Blanquerna-Universitat Ramon Llull, Barcelona.

Most (72%) also admitted to buying a food product only for the information shown on the front of the packaging, a fact which did not vary among men and women.

Better healthy food decisions with Nutri-Score labelling

Despite students making food purchasing choices based on such front-of-pack information, 33% did not know what the Nutri-Score label indicates.

Informed of the system, however, most of the participants (89%) indicated that the Nutri-Score label would help them to introduce healthy foods into their diet. The opinion was even more popular amongst women (94%) than men (82%).

The researchers also compared the labels of two products, one with the Nutri-Score scheme and the other with the Guideline Daily Amounts label, and found 88.8% of the students better interpreted the product labelled with Nutri-Score.

“Therefore, due to the easy interpretation of the Nutri-Score logo and the lack of other tools that help participants make healthier decisions, Nutri-Score is postulated as a good guidance system for healthier food purchase decisions.”

New studies needed on Nutri-Score purchasing influence

The researchers also recommended that new studies should be conducted in larger university student samples with regards to the Nutri-Score’s influence on purchase decisions.

Previous studies on the understanding of the Nutri-Score labelling system, as well as of other nutritional labels, are scarce, they added.

“Currently, there are few brands that include the Nutri-Score label, as it is not required,” the researchers continued.

“However, it is being adopted by more products every day, and awareness of proper nutrition is increasing.”

Misperception of a healthy diet

Overall, a total 86.9% of the students considered their diet to be normal, very health or quite healthy, while just 11.8% admitted having an unhealthy diet. The remainder did not know.

“The results showed that this perception is wrong,” said the researchers, adding: “The consumption of ultra-processed foods by the respondents is too high to consider that they have a normal or healthy diet.”

Weekly, 71% admitted to consuming soft drinks, 83% snacks, 83% nuggets, 67% pastries, and 68% alcohol. A total of 25.5% did not know the adequate or optimal amount of the daily consumption for salt and sugar.

The study also found that wrongful perceptions of a healthy diet were particularly rife among overweight students.

Of the participants, most (87.5%) had a body mass index (BMI) within normal range, though 11.2% were overweight or obese.

“Most of those who are overweight or obese perceive their diet in a distorted way, qualifying it as normal or even very healthy,” said the researchers.

“Neither sex nor age, the type of university, studies, or branches of knowledge influences how the study participants perceived their diet.”

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