At a round table debate organised by savoury snack association SNACMA this week, nutritionists said nutrient profiling had been tried many times but did not work.
“It can distinguish at the extreme ends but does not discriminate in the middle ground,” said Professor Robert Pickard, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation.
The model, developed by the Food Standards Agency, is being used to help media regulator Ofcom identify foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar. This will feed into the work it is doing to strengthen the code of advertising to children.
Gary Stephenson, head of external relations for Procter & Gamble and a nutritionist, said profiling was attempting to do everything for everyone - and nutrition just did not work that way. The population had a wide range of needs, depending on life stage and lifestyle.
“If I were stuck on a mountainside overnight I would rather have a couple of packs of crisps than a bag of apples,” he said.
Nick Stuart, commercial manager at United Biscuits and chairman of SNACMA’s commercial working group, said: “The objectives of the model are unclear. Is it to address obesity, micronutrients or reduction in salt? There is no one single solution to all these problems.”
There are questions about the model’s scientific basis. Fats, for example, cover thousands of different molecules, but the model treats them all as “simply fuel for the tank”, said Pickard. And the use of 100g as a quantity base is seen as “ridiculous” - a bag of crisps, for example, has about 30g of fat.
At The Grocer’s Health White Paper seminar last week, FSA deputy chair Julia Unwin pleaded with the industry to get in touch if it had concerns about the science behind the model.
But the FSA has been accused of not responding to detailed questions from industry and taking a tick-box approach rather than embracing dialogue when it comes to consultation.
Separately, research obtained by The Grocer shows that the consumption habits of obese and overweight people have not changed over the past year.
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