The regulator has used the model to determine which foods should be banned from advertising to children.
Developed by the FSA to help Ofcom meet its government brief to combat growing obesity levels in children, nutrient profiling scores food using a 'simple' formula (see p38) that seeks to target food that's high in sugar, salt and fat.
But many believe the methodology is fundamentally flawed. NPM ignores nutrients such as calcium and iron, vitamin content and natural antioxidant claims, and also fails to distinguish between natural and processed sugars. Even more controversially, the FSA's model scores all products using a 100g 'measure' - regardless of the actual average portion size.
Casualties of the ban include several foods with strong health claims: cheese, Marmite, raisins, honey, olive oil, low-fat margarines, Greek yoghurt, tomato ketchup and several breakfast cereals.
At the same time, other foods with minimal or no nutritional value - chicken nuggets, plain white bread, oven chips, diet drinks and a lot of ready meals that, on a per portion basis, are high in salt, fat and even sugar - escape the Ofcom ban.
"Nutrient profiling is scientifically bankrupt and in its current form should have no place in Ofcom's plans to help the government tackle obesity," said Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer. "The FSA's methodology sends out too many wrong signals to parents, with wholesome and nutritious products that form part of a healthy, balanced diet all unfairly targeted.
"With Ofcom now planning to extend the ban to other media, the ban will have a detrimental impact not just on sales of these innocent food products but the health of children, while encouraging food manufacturers to develop products that are long on artificial sweeteners and artificial additives, and short on healthy nutrients."
The FSA has said it will not consider any changes to NPM until 1 January 2008 at the earliest, unless new evidence emerges. Ofcom has said it will not review the effectiveness of the broadcast ban until autumn 2008. Plans for a further ban on print and online media, together with direct marketing, sponsorship and in-store marketing, will be discussed on 20 February at a DH forum comprising industry and consumer groups.
Our campaign will also involve a lobbying campaign to key opinion formers, including teachers, chefs, doctors, nutritionists, scientists and the media. The Grocer also welcomes the support of retailers, wholesalers and food and drink manufacturers.Sport 'is key'
A survey by The Grocer/Harris Interactive this week showed only 33% of adults believed a ban on junk food ads was the most important tool in tackling obesity. Eighty-four per cent of adults said sport and exercise were the most important weapon. Promotion of healthy food and a balanced diet scored next best with 69%. Banning junk food ads scored lowest.