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Ultra-processed foods: how functional is the NOVA system?

Ultra-processed foods: how functional is the NOVA system?
March 2022

A team of French scientists has recently investigated the robustness and functionality of the NOVA system.

How? 170 food and nutrition specialists were asked to assign to the 4 NOVA groups, 120 « marketed » foods belonging to 3 food categories : fresh dairy products, bread products and mixed dishes, and 111 “generic” foods among the most consumed in France.

Results A weak consistency of the assignment of each food in the different NOVA groups between specialists was observed, although these assignments were more consistent for some foods than for others.

Conclusion The current criteria used in the NOVA system do not allow to assign in a non-ambiguous manner a food into a NOVA group. The assignment that are obtained cannot be considered as reliable. The NOVA system should thus be improved, especially because it has gained popularity in epidemiological studies and public health policies.

Open-access article available online :

Author : C. Bianchi. Mars 2022.

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