Doctor: Manon Egnell
Title: Impact on consumers of the simplified “Nutri-Score” nutritional information sign on the front of food packaging
Supervisor: Serge Hercberg
Doctoral school: ED 146 Doctoral school Galilée, University Sorbonne Paris Nord
Date of thesis defense: 06/2020
Jury: Linda Cambon, Stefaan De Henauw, Denis Hémon, Chantal Julia
Given the current public health challenges, preventive nutritional measures are essential to improve the nutritional status of populations and prevent chronic diseases. Among these measures, Front-of-Pack nutrition Labels (FoPLs) summarizing the nutritional content of foods have been identified as effective tools to improve consumer choices. In France, the summary, FoPL Nutri-Score was adopted in October 2017 by public health authorities. Previous studies have shown that the Nutri-Score was well perceived and understood, and that it improved purchases in the general population. However, several dimensions of its effectiveness have yet to be evaluated. In addition, since 2018, the European Commission aims to harmonize front-of-pack nutritional labelling in Europe, and several European countries have now adopted the Nutri-Score. As part of this thesis, we therefore investigated the understanding of the Nutri-Score and its effect on consumer choices in different countries in order to verify its transferability to other sociocultural contexts. In addition, we assessed its potential effect on the purchases of specific at-risk populations, on the portion sizes consumed and the health status of consumers. These studies showed that the Nutri-Score was the FoPL associated with the highest objective understanding among the systems tested, in all 18 countries surveyed worldwide, and notably in Europe, where it encouraged better nutritional quality choices. We also observed that it improved the nutritional quality of the purchasing intentions in students, low-income individuals, and individuals suffering from cardiometabolic diseases, and that it would encourage consumers to reduce the size of portions consumed of unhealthy foods. Finally, we observed that a diet of lower nutritional quality according to the nutrient profiling system underlying the Nutri-Score was associated with an increased risk of overweight, and in a simulation study, that consumptions of better nutritional quality following the implementation of the Nutri-Score could substantially reduce mortality from nutrition-related chronic diseases. These studies have investigated new dimensions of the Nutri-Score effectiveness, and have provided scientific evidence to decision-makers in a particular European context, where many countries are considering the implementation of an effective complementary nutritional information system such as the Nutri-Score.