From 1 January 2024, Dutch manufacturers and supermarkets may officially use Nutri-Score on a voluntary basis. This is what the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) Maarten van Ooijen writes in a letter to the House of Representatives. Opinions on the admission of Nutri-Score are divided. The Consumers’ Association, Foodwatch and umbrella supermarket organization CBL are happy with it, while the Nutrition Center and the Dutch Association of Dieticians have reservations.
Adjust Nutri-Score in pilots
Nutri-Score has already been introduced in France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. In the Netherlands, various manufacturers and supermarkets are currently conducting pilots that still use the old Nutri-Score algorithm. From July 1, 2024, these scores must be aligned with the revised algorithm.
Health Council recommendations
At the end of last year, the Health Council evaluated Nutri-Score and concluded that the logo can be valuable, but is not yet perfect. Van Ooijen will include the recommendations of the Health Council for further improvement of the algorithm in the discussions of the international steering group of Nutri-Score. However, he does not want to create the expectation that the logo will fully comply with the nutritional guidelines. He writes: ‘The reason for this is, among other things, that the algorithm does not always seem technically to allow for the further refinement that is necessary to implement the improvement. This is the case, for example, with the distinction between white rice and pasta and the whole-grain variants thereof.’ He also believes that the Netherlands must first find support within the international Nutri-Score steering group for further improvements. Other countries may have different wishes and proposals for improvements.
Call from Food Jungle
Van Ooijen sees Nutri-Score as an addition to the existing nutritional information: ‘The Wheel of Five continues to lead the way in information about a healthy diet. If consumers nevertheless opt for products outside the Wheel of Five, there is currently no tool to encourage the choice of the product with the better composition. I expect that the introduction of Nutri-Score will have added value here.’ Van Ooijen writes about, among other things, the call by the Nutrition Jungle at the end of 2022 to postpone the introduction of Nutri-Score until the recommendations of the Health Council have been realised: ‘I understand the concerns that have been raised. The provision of information and education about Nutri-Score to consumers is challenging because mismatches will always exist. This will have to be taken into account in the communication towards consumers.’
‘The differences between the Disk of Five and Nutri-Score are a challenge in nutrition information,’ the Nutrition Center writes in response to the letter to parliament. According to the Nutrition Center, deviating scores in particular are difficult to explain and can cause confusion. That is why the Nutrition Center believes that the shortcomings of Nutri-Score must be resolved. The Dutch Association of Dieticians is also afraid of confusion and expects that the logo will lead to more work in dietician practice. Bianca Rootsaert, director of the Dutch Association of Dieticians, doubts whether the logo will be improved soon: ‘The Netherlands can no longer adapt the algorithm, specifically for the Dutch situation. That is a decision that must be taken jointly by all participating countries.’
Source: Central Government