New nutrition score system could lessen confusion in aisles

9/16/2011

Guiding Stars, a U.S. patented program that uses a star scoring system–zero stars for bad food, three for good is looking to change the way Canadians select healthy food.

According to a Globe and Mail article, the Guiding Stars system was developed by a panel of independent scientists commissioned by Maine-based grocer Hannaford Brothers Company to guide consumers through confusing health claims to choose healthy products.

Loblaw is the first Canadian grocer, with an exclusive license on the Guiding Stars program, to introduce the program at pilot projects in four Toronto-area stores, with plans to expand it nationally with a larger health strategy that will include dietitians on store floors next year.

A computer algorithm was developed that takes into account nutrition label contents and ingredients to calculate an aggregate score of a food’s nutritional value, rating it with stars.

Loblaw is also drawing on a panel of independent scientific advisers to form its ratings. Loblaw’s algorithm has been modified to reflect the differences between Canadian and U.S. food guides and labels and will be updated to account for new government rules and scientific developments.

Many nutritionists say the current healthy eating guides–better-for-you logos and and the like are ineffective, while health advocates have praised the Guiding Stars for its scientific validity and simple approach.

Under the Guiding Stars program, all food products in the grocery store are independently audited.

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