Consumers assoc. wants to introduce color-coded scores to show how healthy products are

Nutriscore logo on two types of yogurt
Nutriscore logo on two types of yogurt. (Photo: Consumentenbond)

Consumers association Consumentenbond wants the Dutch government to introduce the Nutriscore label on Dutch products. Nutriscore is a color-coded label that shows at a glance how healthy or unhealthy a product is, with ratings from A (healthy) to E (unhealthy). 

At the end of last year the Dutch government, along with some 70 social organizations, signed the National Prevention Agreement, which aims to make Dutch people healthier. Part of the agreement is that a new food choice logo must be introduced by the end of 2020. The new logo must make it easier for consumers to make the healthier choice. Consumentenbond thinks Nutriscore is the best option for this. 

The Nutriscore system was conceived in France and already works well there, Babs van der Staak of Consumentenbond said to NOS. A team of independent researchers is hired by the government to look at the nutritional value of a product and to give it a healthy score between A and E. This score comes with a color code, with healthy A being green and unhealthy E being red. 

To show how the system works, the consumers association applied the method to 50 different snacks, like cereal bars, rice cakes and chocolate bars. Only one in five got the healthy A or B score. "People know that a Mars, Snickers or Kitkat is not healthy. But there are also many products that look healthy because of the packaging, but turn out not to be", Van der Staak said. She mentioned rice cakes with a yogurt layer as an example. "It says yogurt, but it is actually a kind of white chocolate." The product therefore got an unhealthy score of E. 

The Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports is currently investigating the different labels to see what will work best in the Netherlands. "We are looking at various existing systems and we are going to test what is best understood among Dutch people", State Secretary Paul Blokhuis said, according to NOS. "To be successful, the new logo must also have broad support." He hopes to have a decision made by the end of the year. 

Marian Geluk, director of food industry interest group FNLI, thinks it is too early to support the Nutriscore label, as the Ministry has not yet decided on a label. According to her, manufacturers mainly want quick clarity, so that they won't have to change systems later. 

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