Focus of nutritional information on recommended products, not on ‘unhealthy’ ingredients

31 May 2010

Information on nutrition made available to consumers must focus on the nutrients that are recommended on a daily basis and not on ‘unhealthy’ foods. That is the conclusion of GFK’s large scale consumer research in France and the Netherlands. The results of the research were presented on 21 May in Amsterdam at the symposium entitled Nutrient Density/Nutritional aspects of Dairy by dairy organisations in France (CNIEL) and the Netherlands (NZO).

The principal results of the research were:

  • Few consumers seek nutritional information. But if they do, packaging and the internet are the most consulted sources;
  • Consumers do know which nutrients are healthy. But they don’t check product packaging to confirm this;
  • Consumers also know little about nutrient content, even if they say that this is something they do look at. This applies equally to well educated people;
  • Consumers who know what the recommended intake of certain products is are also better at keeping to the recommendations.

Nutrient Rich Food Index
The results of the research support the system propagated by the American Professor Adam Drewnowski (Washington University, Seattle). At the symposium he presented the Nutrient Rich Food Index. In this index, the recommended foodstuffs are classified according to the quantity of good nutrients they contain in relation to the amount of energy they provide. Drewnowski’s NFR index comprises nine nutrients: proteins, fibres, three vitamins and four minerals in addition to three foodstuffs to be avoided: saturated fat, added sugar and salt.
A system based on the quantity of nutrients (nutrient density) in products has the advantage that the emphasis is placed on the positive aspects of food whereas current nutritional information chiefly stresses the negative aspects of fat, sugar and salt.