Supermarkets hire nutrition rating companies

1/11/2012

It's becoming commonplace to walk into U.S. supermarkets and see nutritional rating numbers on the shelves.

That's certainly been the case for the Hy-Vee and King Soopers supermarket chains, according to a USA Today article.

King Soopers stores, a division of Kroger, provides NuVal nutrition ratings.

The company also staffs stores with dietitians to help consumers understand NuVal, and other health concerns.

In the U.S., more grocers are having the foods they sell evaluated and ranked on nutritional content. This comes at a time when government is looking at if more regulations are needed on packaging.

NuVal and Guiding Stars are two of the largest companies that license their scoring systems to more than 3,000 stores.

While Guiding Stars uses a three-star system to signal the healthiest foods (three stars is the best ranking); NuVal uses a 100-point system; the higher the score, the better the nutritional components.

Lowes Foods launched NuVal in August and vice-president Heather George said in the article that a single score on a food can help consumers navigate the complexities of determining whether one food is healthier than another.
"Because the numbers go from 1 to 100, there's a lot more ability to compare scores," she said.

Both scoring companies declined to say how much licensing agreements cost, but usually agreements are multiyear deals, with fees based on the number of stores in a chain.

Last fall, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the federal government develop a nutrition rating system that would appear on the front of food packages.

There is some debate whether scoring systems are a good solution for the increasing obesity rates.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University who runs the website Foodpolitics.com, told USA Today that she sees little value in learning whether one potato chip is "slightly better for you" than another.
"I think their purpose is to sell food products," Nestle said in the article. "If you want to encourage people to eat healthy, you want to encourage them not to eat food products. You want them to eat real food."

However, many in the food industry say people aren't automatically going to replace processed foods with fruits and vegetables.

But scoring systems like NuVal will allow consumers to scan a particular category or section for the most nutritional option and choose accordingly.

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