Practical answers about the context and our free tool
Technical answers about the method
Practical answers about the context and our free tool
What is a health claim?
A health claim is any statement used on labels, in marketing or in advertising, that health
benefits can result from consuming a given food or from one of its constituents, e.g.
statements that a food can help reinforce the body’s natural defenses or enhance learning
ability. Examples also include claims on the reduction of disease risk or on nutrients and
other substances that may improve or modify the normal functions of the body, e.g. “Omega-
3 fatty acids protect you against coronary heart disease”, and “Calcium may help improve
bone density”. (*EFSA)
What is a nutrition claim?
A nutrition claim states or suggests that a food has particular beneficial nutritional properties.
Examples include “low fat”, “no added sugar” and “high in fibre”. (*EFSA)
What are food profiles?
Food profiles refers to the global nutritional composition of each food product.
What happens to products with a bad profile?
In the context of the regulation about nutrition and health claims made on food, products whose nutritional profile do not fit specific standards are not authorized to bear claims. This aims to avoid a situation whre nutrition or health claims mask the overall nutritional status of a food product, which could mislead consumers when trying to make healthy choices in the context of a balanced diet.
Is your web tool free?
What about data confidentiality?
No data is retained during the use of the web tool.
More information on FAQ from official agencies
The European Commission Press Release "Questions and Answers" on Health and Nutrition Claim, 16 May 2006
* The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Frequently Asked Questions - Nutrition and Health Claims
Technical answers about the method
How does the system differ from other scoring-based systems?
TheFoodProfiler is a scoring-based system, but does not allow compensation between positive and negative scores. As a result, the system is based on two scores, one of which expresses the food’s potential to "re-balance" the diet, and another that expresses its potential to "un-balance" the diet. The advantage of the system is that it does not mask weaknesses in a food. The system also allows modification of the thresholds – currently, a product must have less that 50% of "weaknesses" and more than 50% of "assets", by this can be altered in line with desired public policy outcomes.
How does the system work across all foods?
TheFoodProfiler applies to all food categories in the same way, testing them against the same four key criteria (total fat, saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and trans-fatty acids (TFAs), added sugar, and added sodium) and one additional, positive criterion (either calcium, iron, fibre, or poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)). The only food group that does not use all four key criteria is fats (oils, butters and margarines), where simply the quality of fat, and added sodium, are taken into account. The system does not demand arbitrary and potentially complicated classification of products such as pizzas, or products that include both milk and cereals. Furthermore, it helps to avoid confusion regarding innovative products and novel foods.
How were the recommended levels of each nutrient calculated? Why is there a "sugar filter"?
For each nutrient, we identified the relevant Eurodiet nutritional recommendations. These recommendations were based on either:
• the number of portions per day (this recommendation concerns only "free refined sugars", suggesting that sugary products should be consumed no more than four times per day)
• the total quantity to be consumed per day (expressed either as a percentage of total energy (for fats, SFAs+TFAs, sugar, and poly-unsaturated fatty acids) or in grams per day (for sodium, fibre, calcium, and iron).
The Eurodiet recommendation on the percentage of total energy that should be supplied by added sugar (< 10-12) gives a maximum daily consumption of 50g per day (based on a total daily energy intake of 2000 kcal). By dividing this between the maximum number of servings, a limit of 12.5g per portion is reached.
Given that the recommendation for sugar is the only one that is expressed in percentage and absolute terms (the amount and number of servings), rather than solely percentage terms, and the link between the obesity epidemic in Europe and high calorie intake, TheFoodProfiler uses a "sugar filter" in order to eliminate certain products and portion sizes. If this filter did not exist, there is a risk that consumption of foods bearing claims could lead people to exceed the recommended intake of sugar, thereby putting the credibility of the system at risk.
Why are there no other filters?
The lack of absolute recommendations in terms of maximum servings per day prevents the establishment of similar "filters" for other nutrients.
Why is added sodium used as a criterion, rather than the total sodium content?
Many "natural" foods that are considered to be healthy (such as vegetables) contain sodium. By using total sodium content as a criterion, vegetables would not necessarily be eligible to bear health claims, so added sodium is used as a more accurate measure. Furthermore, it does not complicate the system, as food manufacturers measure the amount of salt that they intentionally add to foods – thereby allowing reference to the product recipe, rather than food samples, to determine the quantity contained in the food.
Why are positive nutrients included, and what guided the choice of individual nutrients?
The positive nutrients included in the system have been selected on the basis of deficits in intake among various population groups.
Positive nutrients lend extra credibility to the whole notion of a food profiling system:
• it is difficult to consider "desirable" nutrient profiles while using only negative criteria - to bear a claim, a food should be shown as a source of "goodness", rather than simply lacking "bad" nutrients;
• generally speaking, consumers want dairy products that are rich in calcium and cereals that are high in fibre, making it difficult to justify having products bearing claims that do not meet these criteria.
In order to avoid promotion of artificially fortified foods, the system has the following safeguards:
• only one positive nutrient is considered for each food (plus four negative nutrients);
• vitamins are not used as a positive criterion;
• the maximum score for a positive nutrient is +1, avoiding the possibility of getting a better score through increasing the quantity;
• each of the positive nutrients included in the system is available in a sufficient quantity from natural sources;
• if any abuse of the system is detected, the list of positive criteria could be modified without the need to modify the entire system.
How does the scoring system work?
The second stage of the system gives each nutrient a score according to the amount of the nutrient contained in 100 kcal of the food. This reference basis is considered by nutritionists to be the most relevant measure.
A nutrient whose consumption should be reduced in the overall diet (a "negative" nutrient), and whose content in the food is lower than the current recommended intake, would obtain a score of + 1, as its presence in the food contributes to "re-balancing" the diet. If such a nutrient is contained in the food at a level higher than current consumption in the EU-27, then the score is -1, as its presence in the food "unbalances" the diet. If the nutrient is contained in the food at a level between the recommended intake and current consumption, then a score is calculated according to a continuous scale between -1 and +1 (for example, if it is exactly in the middle of the two, then the score will be zero).
For "positive" nutrients, a level lower than current consumption leads to a score of -1, and a level higher than recommended levels leads to a score of +1, with a continuous scale from -1 to +1 between the two levels.
The boundaries (+1 and -1) have been defined so as to make the system as easy as possible, but they still allow for sufficient differentiation. Larger boundaries are possible – for example, by taking into account variations in data on current consumption and different nutritional recommendations. However, such additional complexity is not necessary as the simpler TheFoodProfiler system already discriminates sufficiently between foods.
How was the reference basis chosen?
Both Eurodiet and WHO recommendations have been taken into account as the only two references that are consistently highly valued by the majority of European stakeholders. Where the recommendations differ, the more attainable recommendation has been used. When only one of these two sources proposes a value (as happens in the case of sugar), this value is used.
How is a "portion size" defined?
Portion sizes for certain products (such as yoghurts) can very between EU member states. In order to avoid problems caused by such difficulties, TheFoodProfiler allows the manufacturer to determine the portion size. The choice is not fundamental, because the size of the portion is only used in the first step of the process, with subsequent steps completely independent from the portion size. However, it is an important step for sugary products.
How does the system work for nutritional claims?
When one nutrient is given a score of -1, it is discounted from the calculation. The system is then employed in the same way, without this nutrient. The calculation method is demonstrated on TheFoodProfiler.com, which launches in September 2007. If the conditions for eligibility are fulfilled, the food may bear a nutritional claim, in accordance with the legal requirements mentioned in the Regulation.
When more than one nutriment is given a score of -1, the procedure is a little more complicated. In this case, the online calculator identifies the nutrient that unbalances most the nutritional composition of the food itself (ie, the nutrient that is furthest away in percentage terms from the recommended value). Once this nutrient has been identified, the system outlined in the previous paragraph applies.
How can TheFoodProfiler be used in practice?
The application of the system is simplified by the ability to carry out instant calculations online, and free of charge, at TheFoodProfiler.com. This online tool will determine those products that are eligible to bear health claims, those that are not eligible to bear a health claim but which may bear a nutritional claim (along with any nutrient that must feature as "High in [*]"), and those which may not bear either type of claim.
Transparency in the calculation is maintained. All documents related to the calculation methods are available online, thereby allowing anyone to apply the system without using the online calculator. The system is flexible – if no positive nutrient is entered, the system simply assumes that no positive nutrient is present in the product.
Furthermore, the thresholds can be altered in line with new scientific recommendations or public policy objectives, without altering the system.