Some propose a third way between traditional labels and Nutriscore, i.e., a brand that communicates sustainability dimensions. This proposal is called the Med Index.
Looking For A Food Label
We are well aware that, from early childhood, proper nutrition is the cornerstone of good health. We also know that, unfortunately, the data goes in a completely different direction. In the European Union, 59% of adults and 28% of children and adolescents are overweight (in Italy, the latter percentage reaches 37%). It is estimated that in 2017, again in the European Union, 950,000 deaths (out of a total of 4.65 million) were caused by pathologies resulting from an incorrect diet.
- There are so many reasons why a person doesn’t eat right. Economic reasons, related to the availability of food, but also cultural reasons. This is why the institutions of the Union have been discussing for some time the opportunity to introduce a nutritional label that is the same for all member countries, a measure that should enter into force by the end of 2022. For now, two different approaches are clashing :
- Nutriscore, proposed by France, is a system that gives a synthetic score to the nutritional values of food, from a minimum of E to a maximum of A. It is also called a “traffic light label” because, to be immediately understandable, it uses the same color gamut as the road traffic light. Its extreme simplicity is, at the same time, its most excellent value and its most significant flaw: Coldiretti harshly criticizes it because it rejects critical foods of the Mediterranean diet, such as extra virgin olive oil, which, by its nature, is a fat.
The Nutrinform Battery, advocated by Italy, is a battery that indicates the percentages of energy (expressed in Kcal), fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt provided by a portion of the food compared to the recommended daily dose. The information is, therefore, much more complete and, precisely for this reason, must be read by a person with the minimum skills to interpret it.
Also Read: What Does Proper Nutrition Mean?
A third way: the Med Index
Some propose a third way. Researchers from the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine and the University of Bari have developed a new Med Index tool. They described it in an article published in the Journal of Functional Foods.
The Med Index is a holistic index that goes beyond counting calories and macros. Various scientific studies show that the quality of what you eat affects your health in an equally important way: textbook examples are extra virgin olive oil and dried nuts, which, despite their significant contribution of calories and good fats, have a proven cardiovascular risk reduction effect.
In addition to the nutritional aspect, sustainability also comes into play. Indeed, through the second Sustainable Development Goal, the international community has committed itself to eradicate hunger and ” achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. ”
It is, therefore, proper – indeed, necessary – that citizens be able to understand whether the fruit they want to put in the trolley has been grown with pesticides or if a packaged juice has generated enormous production waste.
What The Med Index Measures
In concrete terms, therefore, the Med Index has the shape of a pyramid (to recall the food pyramid) and represents a long series of parameters synthetically:
- At the top is the number of servings, expressed graphically rather than in grams.
- Instead of the number of calories in the central band, there is an indication of how much physical activity is needed to balance them.
- In the lower band, the three dimensions of sustainability are represented: nutritional, environmental, and social. Each sticker has a color which can be yellow (good), green (best), or the best (blue). The chromatic choice deliberately avoids creating a dichotomy, a little too simplistic, between “passed” and “failed.”
Each dimension of sustainability is, in turn, assessed based on various indicators. As regards the nutritional value, for example, seasonality, respect for biodiversity, the balance between macronutrients, the presence of probiotics and prebiotics, etc., are monitored.
As far as environmental sustainability is concerned, on the other hand, the use of pesticides, organic certification, traceability, etc., count. Finally, there are social parameters, such as respect for gender equality and labor regulations, investments in research and development, etc.
Also Read: 15 Foods You Should Never Keep In The Fridge