The Nutri-Score is intended to help consumers quickly compare products in a category or product type.
Luisa Ita“Food” Editor
Almost half of adults are too fat! Obesity is an ever-growing 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% is obese, i.e. significantly overweight. Around 15% 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 blame a lack of time for healthy eating as the cause of their obesity – and that’s exactly what the Nutri-Score aims to help with.
More information on the Nutri-Score
Frozen pizza with a green “A”: how does it work?
The Nutri-Score is a color scale that is intended to make shopping easier. The idea: You should be able to understand at first glance which product is right for a balanced diet. The letters “A” through “E,” found on the front of many foods today, demonstrate how balanced a product is. But how is it that chocolate granola is suddenly rated with a green “A” and fruit yogurt with a big, fat, red “E”?
The reason is simple: the Nutri-Score is not intended to compare apples and pears, but only products of the same category or type of product with each other. In other words: if you want to buy a ready-made pizza, you can use the color coding to quickly find out which of the ready-made pizzas has the most balanced nutritional composition – that’s why even a ready-made pizza with a high calorie content pizza can have a ” A” green on the package.
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 take 100 grams or 100 milliliters of product. Recommended nutrients would be weighted green, while those that should be consumed in moderation would be weighted red. These are assigned to the scale: from “A” for balanced to “E” for one-sided and therefore unbalanced composition.
Foods such as nuts, fiber, proteins, legumes, vegetables and some oils are classified as green. Nutrients with high energy content, i.e. many 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. Someone probably also became suspicious of Emmi Caffè Latte: the sweetened take-away coffees had a green label for a while, but after the media outcry this was changed. The Nutri-Score committees have finally decided that milk drinks should no longer be classified as foods, but as drinks – since their Nutri-Score is calculated differently, some latte products have slipped into the category “C” or even in the red areas «D» and «E».
«The Nutri-Score only evaluates processed foods. Products that do not have a nutritional table cannot be labeled with the Nutri-Score, for example fresh fruit and vegetables”, explains the BLV on its website. The authority underlines: even foods with a green Nutri-Score cannot be consumed without restrictions, just as a red color code should not be seen as a ban: “The label only helps you choose the healthiest one among identical products.”
The Nutri-Score is voluntary
Food labeling is done by food manufacturers; it is currently still voluntary. In 2019, the Federal Council rejected a PS politician’s motion to make color coding mandatory in Switzerland and it was eventually withdrawn in 2021.
Even if the regional government considers the prevention of non-communicable diseases an important objective of health policy and is committed to a healthy and balanced diet, it wants to keep Nutri-Score labeling – as in the rest of Europe – on a basic volunteer. The reason is the ongoing discussions on a uniform and effective system for food classification, as 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.”