EFSA opinion on nutrient profiling spotlights fat, sodium and sugar

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: GettyImages-Goran13 label
Pic: GettyImages-Goran13 label

Related tags Nutritional labelling

The European Food Safety Authority has issued scientific advice on nutrient profiling that will help inform the Commission’s future plans for front-of-pack labelling.

EFSA’s scientific advice, published today, reflects the findings of its nutrition experts who have identified nutrients and non-nutrient food components of public health importance to Europeans, the food groups with important roles in European diets, and scientific criteria to guide the choice of nutrients for nutrient profiling.

They found intakes of energy, saturated fats, sodium and added or free sugars are too high in Europe. Reducing them would help combat chronic diseases linked to unhealthy diets, the food safety body noted.

On the other hand, EFSA revealed, dietary fibre and potassium intakes are too low in ‘most’ European adult populations. Increasing them would also contribute to improved health, EFSA said.

“Iron, calcium, vitamin D, folate and iodine intakes are inadequate in specific sub-populations. Whereas increasing dietary intake of these nutrients is often not sufficient to meet their needs, some foods/food groups make important contributions to their intake. These are usually addressed by national policies and/or individual advice,”​ EFSA said.

What next for European FOP nutrition labelling?

The European Commission requested EFSA’s scientific advice to inform both the development of a future EU-wide system for front-of-pack nutrition labelling and conditions for restricting nutrition and health claims on foods.

EFSA stressed it did not evaluate or propose a particular nutrient profiling model for either of these purposes.

The draft opinion was based on a public consultation that generated 529 comments from 83 organisations and individuals in 21 countries.

Some comments indicated misunderstanding about EFSA’s role and responsibilities in the nutrition area, EFSA noted. Significantly, the food safety body stressed the European Commission is the ‘risk manager’ responsible for proposing the nutrient profiling model to be used. “It is not a task for EFSA.”

As part of the Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission intends to propose a revision of existing legislation on the provision of food information to consumers at the end of 2022. EFSA’s scientific input will inform the Commission’s proposal alongside other evidence.

The EC did not ask EFSA to provide guidance on whether nutrient profiles should be set for food across the board and/or for categories of food; about an approach for calculating the profiles; or, about the feasibility and testing of nutrient profiling models.

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