FDF believes the effectiveness of nutrient profiling as a tool within public
health policies is dependent on the purpose of the profile and how the profile
developed. To support this view, FDF has developed a set of scientifically based
principles, which we believe should be considered when developing a nutrient
- it should have a clear and unambiguous objective for tackling a clearly defined
end point, e.g. obesity, blood pressure, heart disease, etc.
- it should consider all nutrients (not foods) relative to the objective,
appropriately balanced according to their expected impact on the defined end
based on a high standard of scientific evidence
- if designed for a defined population should be based on the average within that
population (e.g. bodyweight, activity level)
- it should consider actual consumption patterns, taking account of amounts
typically consumed and may include frequency
- it should be capable of identifying significant differences in nutrient
composition within and between foods, thereby encouraging appropriate
new product development appropriate to the objective
- it should be understandable by those expected to comply but does not necessarily
have to be understood by consumers
- it should be sufficiently robust, as a rule, so as to avoid the need for
- it should avoid absolute adjectival parameters in its design or execution e.g.
‘healthy', 'unhealthy', 'good', 'bad', etc.
- it can be a category based scheme if appropriate for the objective
- it can use thresholds, algorithms, or some other numerical system provided they
levels are based on generally accepted scientific evidence and any comparative
impact on individuals foods is proportionate.
Nutrient profiling is a means of categorising foods according to their nutrient
composition. Profiles are usually developed in the context of a public heath
policy to enable classification of foods for example as ‘healthy’ or ‘less
Dependent on the purpose of the model, and the role of different foods within a
given population’s diet, the importance of different nutrients, and different
levels of those nutrient, may vary. This is why we believe it is essential that
before a model is used there is a clear objective in place.
It is also why we do not believe that a universal nutrition profiling model, one
that applies to all foods in any diet, is an effective means to judge whether
individual food is ‘healthy’.
Currently the World Health Organisation (WHO) is undertaking work to develop
principles and a framework for developing nutrient profiling models. As a first
part of this work a review has been undertaken to catalogue nutrient profiling
models currently in use. 118 models were identified, with 63 of these meeting
WHO inclusion criteria and only about a third of those having been validated.
Further details of this work have yet to be published.
Nutrient Profiles are currently used in the UK as part of Ofcom rules on which
foods can be advertised to children. They are likely to be used in the future
restricted the types of foods nutrition and health claims can appear on.
Last reviewed: 24 Mar 2015