the recording of energy, saturated fat, sodium and added/free sugar is too high in Europe; lowering it would help fight chronic diseases that stem from an unhealthy diet. Instead, fiber and potassium intake is the same for most adults. population too low in Europe and raising it would lead to better health.
These are the main conclusions of the scientific opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on nutrient profiles, published today. Our nutrition experts have identified food components, both nutrient and non-nutrient, that are important to the public health of Europeans, identified food groups that play an important role in European diets, and finally determined criteria scientists, according to whom the selection of nutrients should be based on the creation of nutrient profiles.
The European Commission asked EFSA for scientific advice to support the development of a future pan-European system for front-of-pack nutrition labeling and measures to restrict nutrition or health claims on foods. It is important to note that EFSA has not evaluated or proposed any particular nutrient profile model in relation to these purposes. (See the FAQ below for more information on your opinion.)
Extensive commitment during the consultation
EFSA launched a public consultation on the draft opinion from November 2021 to January 2022. This resulted in 529 comments from 83 organizations and individuals in 21 countries.
Ana Afonso, Head of the EFSA Nutrition and Food Innovation Unit, said: “We would like to thank everyone who sent us feedback. Our scientists have studied every comment and question. Their input has helped us clarify the scope of our assessment and more accurately delineate our scientific input from factors outside EFSA’s remit.”
Some comments indicated misunderstandings about EFSA’s role and responsibilities in the field of nutrition. These questions are addressed in the following frequently asked questions.
As part of the Farm to Fork strategy, the European Commission intends to propose a review of existing legislation on food information for consumers by the end of 2022. Scientific input from EFSA will be included in the Commission proposal together with other evidence collected by the Commission. You can follow future updates available on the Commission’s website.
- What scientific criteria should be used when selecting nutrients for the nutrient profile?
The selection of nutrients should be based primarily on their importance to public health, i. h when excessive or insufficient intake is associated with adverse health effects. However, they can also be taken into account for other reasons, e.g. B. because they are markers of other important nutrients for public health or to prioritize the consumption of certain foods within the same food category.
As an example of the latter, our opinion notes that risk managers may choose to include some omega-3 fatty acids in nutrient profile models to encourage consumption of oily fish, in line with their dietary recommendations. You may choose to do so even if there is not enough data on intake of these fatty acids to determine whether or not you are consuming them in adequate amounts.
- What nutrients could be considered in the models to create nutrient profiles?
Nutrient profiling models could consider:
- The intake of saturated fat, sodium and added/free sugars exceeds the dietary recommendations for most European populations and this excessive intake has been associated with adverse health effects.
- given the high predominance of overweight and obesity in Europe, a reduction in energy intake for public health reasons is relevant for the European population.
- Intake of dietary fiber and potassium is inadequate for most adult populations in Europe and this inadequate intake is associated with adverse health effects.
- The absorption of iron, calcium, vitamin D, folate and iodine is deficient in certain populations. While increased dietary intake of these nutrients is often insufficient to meet your needs, some foods/food groups are important contributors to your intake. These are usually addressed as part of national strategies and/or individual counselling.
- What are the main food groups that contribute to nutrition in Europe?
The nutritional importance and relative contribution of the different food groups varies from one European country to another due to different dietary habits and traditions.
This includes starchy foods (primarily cereals and potatoes), fruits and vegetables, legumes, milk and dairy products, meat and meat products, fish and shellfish, nuts and seeds, and non-alcoholic beverages recognized under the National Food-Based Dietary Guidelines in the member states. state
- What food groups are recommended nationally?
National guidelines encourage the consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, milk and low-fat dairy products, fish, and water. Food products that are high in saturated fat, sugar, and/or sodium due to food processing are generally discouraged, even within these food categories.
National guidelines also encourage the regular consumption of legumes that partially replace meat (particularly red meat and processed meat) and the consumption of vegetable oils that are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (for example, olive, sunflower, corn and canola) instead of fats that are high in saturated fat. (for example, palm and coconut oils, butter and other animal fats).
- Has EFSA been asked to establish nutrient profiles for front-of-pack labeling and for the restriction of nutrition and health claims on foods? Why doesn’t EFSA provide full advice on how nutrient profiles should be established?
The European Commission, as risk manager, will propose the nutrient profile model to be used for these two different purposes. This is not the job of EFSA.
Our scientific experts indicated that the same scientific considerations could be used when setting up models to create nutrient profiles for both purposes. However, risk managers decide whether to use the same model or different models for each purpose.
The European Commission requested scientific advice only on some specific aspects: identification of nutrients and non-nutrient components (e.g. energy, fibre) of importance to the public health of the European population, food groups that play an important role in the European diet , as well as criteria that could guide the selection of nutritional and non-nutritional food components for the construction of nutritional profiles.
EFSA was not asked: whether nutrient profiles should be established for foods in general and/or for food categories; according to an approach to compute the profiles (limit– or scoring systems); after selection of the amount/baseline for nutrient profiles (ie, per energy unit, product weight or volume, or per serving); or after feasibility and model testing to create nutrient profiles. These issues were addressed by EFSA in 2008 in the context of establishing nutrient profiles for foods with nutrition and health claims, but were no longer addressed in 2022.
For more information on the scope of this scientific advice and answers to questions related to our role in nutrition, please see our more detailed FAQ: