Agricolae International28/01/2023 13:54

EU shelves Nutriscore and aims for hybrid of US and Australian model. But manufacturers use it only if score is positive (as in France)


A system of stars and colors. This is the hypothesis that - AGRICOLAE learns - would be looked at in Europe after the failure of Nutriscore.

From inside sources it would appear that a 'compromise' between the U.S. model, and the Australian model is being considered in the EU to overcome the debate that has arisen in the EU over the French model that is also considered obsolete by French researchers, such as Jean-Michel Lecerf.

It's called Health Star Rating and it's the Nutriscore in Australian sauce. It does not improve consumers' purchasing choices - according to an international research - but Nestlè will adopt it as an evaluation system for its products in its annual report. And manufacturers only use it if the score is positive (as in France). Here is the made in Australia labeling that Europe -perhaps- is also looking at.

While in Europe the Nutriscore threat seems to be increasingly distant in favor of a labeling that does not polarize the debate, as stated by the deputy director for food sustainability at DG SANTE, Claire Bury, and by the vice president of the EU Parliament, Pina Picierno, and with any discussion on the matter postponed to no earlier than 2024, the EU Commission's search for labeling capable of satisfying all member countries continues.

Nutriscore, Claire Bury (Dg Sante): Commissione Ue non lo proporrà, stiamo valutando altri schemi etichetta. Non possiamo polarizzare il dibattito. VIDEO

Among the many proposals being examined - from what Agricolae learns - also the Nutriscore in the Australian version, the Health Star Rating, which does not seem to differ much from its French version.

"The more stars, the healthier" is the motto of the Australian label, which also aims to provide the consumer with a quick comparison tool between similar products.

The Health Star Rating is a front-of-pack labeling system that evaluates the overall nutritional profile of packaged foods and awards it a ½-star to 5-star rating, based on the amount of specific components within the product. These components may include energy, saturated fat, total sugar, sodium, protein, dietary fiber, and "fruit, vegetable, nut, and legume" (FVNL) content.

The use of the HSR system is voluntary, while the number of stars and the consistency of the information - including the quantity of nutrients and the correct use of the algorithm - are entrusted to individual producers and retailers.

However, as specified on the institutional website of the HSR, the star system does not provide "an indication of the absolute wholesomeness of a product or of the quantity of each food to be consumed as part of a balanced diet. The Health Star Rating system does not take consideration of other health effects of particular ingredients, nutrients, products or processing methods".


The rating expressed in stars by means of a logo can also be accompanied by some graphics, such as those on the amount of energy or nutrients.

As with Nutriscore, however, there are critical issues in a system that makes immediacy in communicating to the consumer its forte. Not only is this a self-regulatory system but the HSR is also compensatory. "This means that a negative nutritional attribute can be canceled out, or balanced, by a positive attribute. A manufacturer can obtain a high HSR score for a product rich in sugar by adding a healthy ingredient such as fiber" writes The Conversation in an online article from a few years ago says.

The same problems of the French version of the front-of-pack labeling therefore return, starting from the fact that the classifications are only valid if the same product categories are taken into consideration (therefore it will be possible to have four stars for both milk and cereals, despite having completely different nutritional qualities and levels of wholesomeness).

Finally, the same dynamics recorded on the Nutriscore by the large producers are repeated, who choose to adopt front-of-pack labeling only if it is convenient for them. The Conversation always writes:

"Moreover, the system is not mandatory, leaving producers the freedom to decide when and how to use it. For example, only about 20% of packaged products available in New Zealand and Australian supermarkets have an HSR. To add to the bias, a number disproportionate of these show high ratings. This indicates that manufacturers are only using HSR for their healthiest products."

Nutriscore, i grandi marchi lo utilizzano ma solo se punteggio è buono. La ‘E’ presente solo sull’1% dei prodotti etichettati

Doubts about the real effectiveness of the Health Star Rating have also been raised by international research in 2020, which highlights how "no solid evidence has been observed that HSR labeling changes consumer purchasing behavior. The positive effect on The nutrient purchase of HSR-labelled foods likely results from reformulating products to achieve a better HSR label."

In short, as for Nutriscore, there is no concrete evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of labeling and its impact on consumer purchasing choices. On the other hand, the same dynamics take place on the part of the industry that we find in Europe, which in order to obtain more positive evaluations, engages in the reformulation of its products.

Here is the search:

The EU study by the JRC (Joint Research Center of the EU Commission) had also reached the same conclusions, which examined the effects of front-pack nutritional labels on consumers, and in particular the Nutriscore: "There are not yet enough real data to evaluate the impact of FOPNL on dietary intake and health."

Nutriscore, Hercberg: sistema rigoroso e scientifico. Ma studio Ue in bilico: nessun legame tra etichetta fronte pacco e benefici sulla salute


It is, therefore, a series of data and research, which show how the use of labels on products has little appeal to consumers when it comes to shopping. This is an element that also emerges in the latest EFSA report, which highlights how cost, followed by taste and origin, guides consumer choices. At the last places Climate and Environment.

The special Eurobarometer which examines the perceptions and attitudes of Europeans towards food safety is clear: the cost (54%) of the product comes first in guiding the choices of those shopping, followed by the taste (51%) and origin and safety (46%). Then the nutrient content. In the last and marginal places respect for the environment and the climate.

Efsa, a guidare scelte consumatori al primo posto il costo, poi il gusto e l’origine. Agli ultimi posti Clima e Ambiente. Ecco la ricerca

In a recent article for Forbes, Hank Cardello highlights, on the basis of some scientific data, how despite the proliferation of nutritional labels from country to country, there is no real decrease in obesity: "A 2020 consumer segmentation study by Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) offers insights. NMI found that those with the highest rates of overweight and obesity do not read the nutritional information on packages as much as those at a healthy weight. Nutrition labeling simply preaches the chorus: reassure customers health-conscious consumers who are making good choices but failing to reach the people who need them most."

Among the solutions for real change, Cardello writes, the need to "make labels informative rather than interpretive (as in the symbols that label food products as 'bad')."

Meanwhile Nestlé has announced that its annual report will rate its food and beverage brands against the Health Star Rating (HSR) system, which assigns a ½ to 5-star nutritional profile score, while nutritional labels will continue to be adopted. currently in use in each country, such as the Nutriscore.

"As part of its global reporting efforts, Nestlé will benchmark its food and beverage products against the Health Star Rating system. HSR will provide a single basis of comparison for our broad global food and beverage offering across 186 countries, except our specialist nutrition products. To help people make informed food choices, Nestlé products will continue to display locally relevant nutrition labeling schemes on the front of the pack, such as Nutri-Score, either on a voluntary basis or as required by authorities."


How the HSR calculator works

The six food categories in the HSR calculator are:

• Category 1 - Beverages (excluding category 1D beverages)
• Category 1D - Milk and milk-based drinks (including milk alternative drinks)
• Category 2 - All foods (other than those included in category 1, 1D, 2D, 3 or 3D)
• Category 2D - Dairy products (other than those included in category 1D or 3D)
• Category 3 - Oils and spreads (including margarine and butter)
• Category 3D -Cheeses

Across all categories (except category 1 non-dairy beverages) the HSR calculator takes into account four aspects of the product associated with increased risk factors for chronic disease:

saturated fats,
total sugars

The HSR score also considers some "positive" aspects of a product such as the content of nvl -fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes- (HSR V points) and, in some cases, the content of dietary fiber (HSR F points) and protein (HSR P points). Taking these components into account, points are awarded according to the composition per 100g or 100mL of the product, following the units used in the NIP.

Below AGRICOLAE publishes the summary document on the HSR labelling:

HSR Calculator and Style Guide 17 Sept 2020


To know more:

Ecco il Nutriscore versione Usa. La Food and Drug Administration (FDA) si basa su percentuale quotidiana e promuove olio d’oliva

Nutriscore, la Francia si compatta. Cns invita Commisione e Parlamento Ue a rispettare i tempi su etichettatura e paragona aziende agroalimentari a lobby del tabacco

Nutriscore, il più grande esperto di nutrizione francese: “sistema obsoleto, parziale e anni 80 con cui produttori manipolano composizione dei loro prodotti per ottenere un punteggio più favorevole”

Nutriscore slitta. Picierno (Vice Presidente Parlamento Ue): Etichettatura deve essere chiara e imparziale, non può condizionare. Difendere consumatori, produttori e territori

Nutriscore, cresce dissenso in Ue. Dopo Georgofili e comunità scientifica, si schiera anche Safe: Incongruenze e difetti, promuove cibi ultra lavorati. Meglio Nova e Siga

Studio Oxford promuove Nutriscore e carne finta. Ma ricercatori sono finanziati da Gates e sono gli stessi della Dittatura alimentare Eat e Piattaforma multinazionali, di cui fa parte anche Eni. Lo studio

Nutriscore, Leclerc: “non fa calare le vendite”. E annuncia azione con colleghi della Gdo per sostenerlo ovunque in Ue contro “lobby infernale italiana”. VIDEO

Nutriscore a fine corsa, associazione consumatori francesi e Hercberg accusano l’Italia, Draghi, la Destra, Confagricoltura e Copa-Cogeca, ‘lobby degli agricoltori Ue’

Nutriscore, Hercberg attacca Salvini e Meloni: Partiti di estrema destra, un cocktail di demagogia e volgarità. Nel mirino anche Coldiretti, Confagricoltura, Federalimentare e Ferrero. Mentre McDonald ottiene il massimo dei voti