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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Is It Healthy? Food Rating Systems Battle It Out

At the grocery store, shoppers confront a dizzying array of labels promoting whole grains, reduced fat, antioxidants or vitamins. Many food companies have their own logos and criteria for better-for-you foods, including Kraft’s “Sensible Solutions,” Pepsico’s “Smart Spot” and Unilever’s “Choices.” Those that do not have such logos have nonetheless festooned their packages with labels advertising less salt, more fiber, more calcium and so on. The labels have gotten so out of hand that the nation’s top food manufacturers and grocers have been meeting regularly to come up with a uniform label for healthy food, something that is being tried in Europe with mixed results. The ratings systems under development all use government dietary guidance as a starting point. Then they consider various nutrients and give them scores to compute a single rating that is supposed to reflect the aggregate nutritional value of a food. The groups developing these systems claim they will be a simplification over the nutritional labels required by the government and the plethora of logos and slogans meant to signify good nutrition. Oftentimes the result is counterintuitive. For instance, a consumer may think that Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise is healthier than the company’s regular mayonnaise. In fact, it has less saturated fat than the regular mayonnaise but more sodium; over all, by Dr. Katz’s calculation, the regular mayonnaise is healthier. More here.
Flashback: November 6, 2006, our 100th post lauded the Hannaford Brothers' "Guiding Stars" system. Now it is being licensed to other grocery chains!

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 8:45 AM

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