French food makers could do better on nutrition, survey finds

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Food

Large variations in the nutritional profile of products within the same food category indicate there is scope for improvement, concludes a survey from France which also found great differences in the level of nutritional info on packs.

L’Observatoire de la qualite d’alimentation (Oqali) is a programme set up by the French research institute INRA and the food safety body AFSSA, to monitor the quality of food products on the market.

It has been building up a picture of the nutritional value of industrially manufactured foods in France across ten product categories: breakfast cereals, biscuits and cakes, sauces, jams, fruit preserves, chocolate, products, bakery products, crunchy snacks, dessert mixes, and fresh dairy products.

The latest results released by AFSSA this week confirm a trend already observed in 2008, that there is no link between a food product’s nutritional quality and the market segment – that is, whether it is a national brand, a supermarket own brand, or a hard discount store brand.

However it did show a difference in the kind of information provided on product packaging, which varies according to the market segment and the price range.

Generally speaking, national brands tend to carry more nutritional claims. However nutritional advice and intake recommendations are more present on supermarket own brands. As for hard discount products, the level of information on labels varies wildly.

In all the market segments, there is a certain amount of variability in the nutritional composition of products in the same category, and some nutrients were more affected than others.

“This variability means there is potential to improve the nutritional composition of products,”​ said the report. It recommended working closely with formulation experts to figure out the margins for improvement, bearing in mind technical, sensory, economic and regulatory constraints.

The next stage will involve looking at artisanal products and the food service industry.

More information is available at​.

Nutritional labelling moves

A new pan-European system for mandatory nutritional information to appear on food and beverage products is currently being worked out in Brussels. Once this is in place,

In the meantime, however, many big players on the European food scene have embraced the guidance daily amounts (GDA) scheme propounded by the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA). This scheme gives proportions of energy (calories), fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt, per portion as a percentage of the recommended amount for an average woman.

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