Are French fries healthier than smoked salmon?

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Belgians are confused as country’s Minister of Health Maggie De Block rolls out new ‘nutri score’ labels.

Would you say that an egg is as healthy as a Diet Coke? According to Belgium’s newly adopted food grading system it is. Kind of.

Minister of Health Maggie De Block launched the nutri-score campaign in Belgium just a few days ago. For De Block, this score is the simplest and most effective way to help consumers choose the healthiest product.

The Nutri-score uses five colours ranging from dark green to red to grade foods according to their overall nutritional quality. The thinking behind the scheme is to facilitate the reading of nutritional labels which are often thought as unclear to consumers. On the front of participating retailers (it’s voluntary), the packaging is labelled with the letters from A to E. E in dark red is the most unhealthy.

Belgium Minister of Health Maggie De Block PHOTO Wikipedia

The French have been using the voluntary system since 2017 and Spain has since 2018.

However, reporters at the publication Nieuwsblad noticed a spanner in the works when they spotted that frozen fries scored an A (dark green and very healthy) and smoked salmon scored a D (orange, which is not the worst but still). Surely not?

Nutri Score awards each product a score based on a scientific algorithm. This formula takes into account the nutrients to avoid (energy value and the amount of sugars, saturated fats and salt) and the positive ones (the amount of fibre, protein, fruit, vegetables and nuts).

Talking to experts, the publication wrote:

“So how come frozen chips score so well? It’s because the nutri-score is about the basic product, it does not take into account that it still needs to be fried. And with those deep-frozen French fries, that basic product is potato, which is considered to be healthier than smoked salmon, which contains more fats. Just like the eggs, an egg is quite high in fat and in Cola Light there is no sugar because sugar substitutes do not count the algorithm.”

In an email to SalmonBusiness, Amsterdam-based nutritional therapist Sanna Sumner said: “I’m not sure about their methods of testing each product and their nutrients but it seems to miss how natural the food is actually. It could be that they measure the presence of fat and calories, therefore could give a skewed result.”

“As to french fries, these are usually high in sodium and have very little nutritional value. Smoked salmon can also be high in sodium however contains high level of fats (also beneficial omega-3) and is a good source of protein. The key is to have a well-balanced diet,” Sumner added.

The French and Belgians have an ongoing dispute about where fries were invented, with both countries claiming ownership. But perhaps one thing that they can agree on is that smoked salmon and fries together make for a nice dish – regardless of the nutri score.