Food officials have devised a new system that ranks foods according to the sum of their nutrients. The system was designed and developed by a panel of independent nutritionists, dietitians, and representatives from the food industry and consumer groups, as well as members of the government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
The model developed by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has evolved through consultations over the last few months into a 'simple scoring' system, which rates the overall balance of nutrients in the food. Points are allocated on the basis of the level of each nutrient (or food component) in 100g of the food, including the energy, saturated fat, total sugar, and sodium content of the food, as well as the amount of protein, fibre and fruit and vegetables that it contains.
The model thus raises attention to foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar, but at the same time recognizes the importance of fruit and vegetables, cereal, meat, and dairy-based products in the diet, says the FSA.
Examples of products typically advertised to children but coming up as 'healthy' under the system include oatmeal, muesli with no added sugar, low-fat fruit yoghurt, wholemeal bread and milk (irrespective of its fat content). Those underlined as high in saturated fat, salt or sugar included cornflakes, confectionery, and a range of takeaway foods, crisps and salted peanuts.
The FSA says the model is expected to be significantly more straightforward for food companies, enforcement bodies and regulators to use than earlier models as it is based on the information already included in on-pack nutritional labelling, therefore eliminating the need for extensive further analysis by manufacturers.
Officials say that the current system has been mainly developed for use by the country's advertising regulator, currently looking at restricting the advertising of certain foods to children. However the system is due for a second reading in the European Parliament at the end of the year or early 2006, if passed, regulators could look towards the UK's nutrient profiling system in the near future say reports.
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