Meat and dairy producers have cautiously welcomed the Food Standards Agency’s preferred model for nutrient profiling, but still have concerns over a proposed signposting system.
Nutrient profiling will determine how products are classified and what information will be required on labels.
The model, contained in the consultation document on nutrient profiling, is based on a scoring system, whereby points are awarded for the content of eight nutrients in 100g of food.
It sets out a calculation for what it calls A points, which cover energy, saturated fat, sugars and sodium. Points for iron, calcium, polyunsaturated fatty
acids and fruit and vegetable content, the so-called C points, are then calculated. The overall score is reached by taking the C points from the A points. If the score is 0-2 the product is classed as healthier, between 3-8 is intermediate and 9 or more is less healthy.
The FSA says the system recognises “the important contribution of dairy, meat, fish and fruit and vegetable-based products to a balanced diet”.
Producers are pleased the model does not focus on one particular attribute. “Cheese is an excellent source of calcium and good for protein but has one-third fat. If you judge it on its attributes, it will be two ticks and one cross. At least this model moves away from one-ingredient incrimination,” said Denis O’Riordan, head of marketing and product development, retail cheese at Kerry Foods.
Claire Cheney, director general of the Provision Trade Federation, said it was a step in the right direction: “It is distinguishing between junk food - containing empty calories - and food that has nutritional benefits.”
However, she pointed out that portion size had not been taken into consideration. “No one eats 100g of cheese - which is a huge portion - but using this for the calculation means it could be red. Other foods, however, may have lower fat per 100g but you may eat more in a portion.”
And there are still question marks over whether the formula is based on sound science.
“The vehicle to deliver useful labelling must be underpinned by robust research. It remains to be seen whether these criteria apply,” said Martin Paterson, deputy director general of the Food and Drink Federation.
Siân Harrington