The Dutch government will start using the Nutri-Score food choice logo on 1 Januari 2024. A food choice logo can make it easier for people to choose healthy foods. That means it can also help lower the number of people who are overweight. This is one of the goals of the National Prevention Agreement. A food choice logo can also motivate producers to make their food products healthier. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has asked RIVM to investigate how the Nutri-Score system can be matched as closely as possible to the Dutch dietary guidelines.
What is Nutri-Score?
Nutri-Score is a food choice logo from France. The logo gives an overall score for how healthy a food product is. It looks at the positives and negatives of each product. Examples of negatives are calories, sugar, saturated fat and salt. Positives are vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, fibre and protein.
The system gives points for each positive or negative based on the limit for its amount in the product. Next, it takes away the points for the positives from the points for the negatives to give a total score. Based on this total score, it gives the product an A, B, C, D or E. A dark green ‘A’ means the product is the healthiest in its product group. Products that are the least healthy receive a dark orange ‘E’. Food choice logos like Nutri-Score help people compare products and make healthier choices.
What is RIVM’s role in Nutri-Score?
The Netherlands and six other countries are working out how to use the Nutri-Score food choice logo and make its use easier. The other countries are France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Switzerland. They are working together in two international bodies: a steering group and a scientific committee. RIVM represents the Netherlands in these bodies.
The steering group is coordinating the introduction of Nutri-Score in each country. Nutri-Score uses an algorithm to calculate a food product’s score. The scientific committee is investigating if changes to this algorithm can help match the score to the countries’ guidelines for good food. And if so, how. RIVM is working on a literature review and making calculations, so it can offer advice. RIVM also takes part in working groups and answers the parties’ questions about the subject matter and technical aspects.
The scientific committee has published an update of the Nutri-Score algorithm. The steering group has adopted the update. The Health Council of the Netherlands then published an advisory report based on this document. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) will decide if it will introduce the Nutri-Score system in the Netherlands.
In 2022, the scientific committee has published an update of the Nutri-Score algorithm to better match the score of solid foods with the nutritional guidelines. The steering group has adopted the update. The Health Council of the Netherlands then published an advisory report based on this document. In March 2023, the algorithm was also adjusted for beverages. The Ministry of VWS (Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport) is responsible for the decision on the introduction of Nutri-Score in the Netherlands.
Study: how to match Nutri-Score to the Wheel of Five
RIVM has worked with the Netherlands Nutrition Centre to compare three European food choice logos with the Dutch guidelines in the Wheel of Five. It did this to prepare for a new food choice logo. These three logos were the Scandinavian Keyhole, the British Multiple Traffic Light and the French Nutri-Score. All of these logos can help people to rank food products based on how healthy they are. In a direct comparison, Nutri-Score was slightly better for ranking food products than the Multiple Traffic Light. Based on the results of this study, the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport has decided that Nutri-Score is the food choice logo we should use in the Netherlands.
Nutri-Score and the Wheel of Five are different in some ways. Both the method and the criteria for ranking food products are different. This is why the Nutri-Score system does not always give the same result as the Wheel of Five. This goes for various foods. Examples are cake and pastries, bread and cereal products, milk and dairy beverages, cheese and processed meats. But before the logo is introduced, it is important to make sure Nutri-Score matches the Wheel of Five closely enough. That way, we can avoid confusion. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport will therefore review the results of the scientific committee’s research. It will then decide if it will introduce the Nutri-Score system in the Netherlands. It will also look at the advisory report by the Health Council.
Nutri-Score as a motivator for product improvement
Food choice logos like Nutri-Score can also motivate companies to improve their products. RIVM investigated this in 2021. Lowering the amounts of sugar and salt or raising the amounts of positive ingredients (like the percentage of vegetables in a meal) will improve the Nutri-Score of a product. The company can then sell the product (for example a meal with more vegetables and less salt) as a healthier choice compared to products that have not been improved. A better Nutri-Score can motivate consumers to choose a particular product.
NAPV and Nutri-Score
In early 2022, RIVM published limits as part of the National Approach to Product Improvement (NAPV). The limits help producers to lower the amounts of salt, saturated fat and sugar in food products, one step at a time. If Nutri-Score is introduced in the Netherlands, RIVM will make sure these limits match the Nutri-Score system where possible.
More information (in Dutch and English)
- Evaluation of nutri-score in relation to dietary guidelines and food reformulation in the Netherlands
- Information about the food choice logo Nutri-Score on the website of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS)
- Information about the food choice logo Nutri-Score on the website of the Netherlands Nutrition Centre.
- Information about the Wheel of Five in this flyer of the Netherlands Nutrition Centre.
- Evaluation of the Nutri-Score algorithm of the Dutch Health Council (English report)
- National prevention agreement