Nutri-Score aims to help consumers quickly compare products within a category or product type.
Luisa Ita“Food” Editor
Almost half of adults are very fat! Obesity is an increasing problem in our society. According to the Federal Office of Public Health, around 42% of the adult population in Switzerland is overweight, of which 11% are obese – i.e. significantly overweight. Around 15 percent of children and young people are overweight or obese.
Being very overweight is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. In our fast-paced world, many people cite a lack of time for healthy eating as the reason for their obesity: And this is exactly where Nutri-Score aims to help.
More about Nutri-Score
Frozen pizza with a green “A” – how does it work?
Nutri-Score is a color scale that aims to make shopping easier. The idea: you should be able to tell at a glance which product is suitable for a balanced diet. The letters “A” to “E”, which today can be found in front of many foods, show how balanced a product is. But how is it possible that chocolate muesli is suddenly classified with a green “A” and fruit yogurt with a big, red “E”?
The reason for this is simple: Nutri-Score is not intended to compare apples and pears, but only products within a category or product type against each other. In other words: if you want to buy a ready-made pizza, you can use the color code to quickly find out which of the ready-made pizzas has the most balanced nutritional composition – which is why even a ready-made pizza with a high calorie content pizza can have a green “A”. on the packaging.
Proteins and vegetables are considered “green” foods
According to the Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs (BLV), the Nutri-Score is determined using a scientifically validated formula. We always assume 100 grams or 100 milliliters of a product. Recommended nutrients would be weighted in green, while those that should be consumed moderately would be weighted in red. These are assigned to the scale: from “A” for balanced composition to “E” for one-sided and therefore unbalanced composition.
Foods such as nuts, fiber, proteins, legumes, vegetables and certain oils are classified as green. Nutrients with a high energy content, that is, a lot of calories, are marked in red. Sugar, salt and saturated fatty acids also fall into the red category.
Coca-Cola beats orange juice
The formula has already led to surprising results: for example, orange juice and apple juice are rated worse than Coca-Cola because the latter contains less sugar. Some people were probably also suspicious of the Emmi Caffè Latte: the sugary takeaway coffees had a green label for a while, but that was changed after media outcry. The Nutri-Score committees have finally decided that dairy drinks no longer need to be classified as foods, but as beverages – because their Nutri-Score is calculated differently, some latte products have dropped to the “C” category or even to the red areas «D» and «E».
«Nutri-Score only evaluates processed foods. Products that do not have a nutritional table cannot be labeled with the Nutri-Score, for example, fresh fruits and vegetables”, explains the BLV on its website. The authority emphasizes: Even foods with a green Nutri-Score cannot be consumed without restrictions – just as the red color code should not be seen as a prohibition: “The label only helps to choose the healthiest among identical products”.
Nutri-Score is voluntary
Food labeling is carried out by food manufacturers; Currently it is still voluntary. A motion by an SP politician in 2019 to declare color coding mandatory in Switzerland was rejected by the Federal Council – and was finally withdrawn in 2021.
Although the state government considers the prevention of non-communicable diseases an important health policy objective and is committed to a healthy and balanced diet, it wants to maintain the Nutri-Score labeling – as in the rest of Europe – on a voluntary basis. The reason for this is the ongoing discussions about a uniform and effective food classification system, and the Federal Council also points out in its response to the 2019 motion: “A mandatory labeling system could also lead to technical barriers to trade”.