The NuVal Eval System

I recently received this email from one of our readers:

I wanted to inform you, in the event you do not know, about the new NuVal Food Rating System. I just saw it in my supermarket, Lowes, in Mint Hill. NC. They rate food selections from 1 to 100 - 1 being the worst, 100 the best. They DO NOT consider NutraSweet dangerous - they say that some people may have allergies to it, but it is safe. They score many food items as being "healthy" if they have less sugar. Diet foods receive better scores than natural foods. This is dangerous to consumers and causing them to overlook better choices. Please review the NuVal rating system - it is coming to our supermarkets! Nuval.

OK. So I checked it out, and this is what I found on their site:

"Information Used in the Scoring Process....

When scoring packaged foods, the NuVal System uses the information on the nutrition facts panel on the food's packaging, as well as the ingredients list. We manually scan the on-package nutrient fact panel and ingredients list, from which a nutrient content profile is generated and processed through the ONQI algorithm (our scoring engine).

For foods without labels (non-packaged) - such as produce, seafood, and meat - the NuVal System uses a nutrient database from a respected research arm of a major university, which is used by both government agencies and academia and contains all of the nutrients needed for our computations. Their data is obtained primarily from the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory and supplemented by food manufacturers' information and data from scientific literature.

The NuVal System measures 'nutritiousness', which is not the only thing about food that matters. However, the System doesn't measure toxins, and in fact cannot, since there is no standard measure for the toxins in a food (because there aren't supposed to be any). The System doesn't measure bacteria either. So while food safety and nutritiousness are both important, they are entirely separate issues.

Regarding mercury content in certain seafood, the scientific literature shows that the net effect of eating fish regularly is a health benefit, in spite of the associated toxins. Consequently, the NuVal Scores provide reliable guidance to the role fish should play in the diet.

As yet, there is no widely validated evidence that organic foods have a higher nutritional value or greater nutrient density than food not grown organically. Obviously, consumers who choose organic foods may be doing so for reasons beyond nutrition - the fact that it is grown without using certain chemical controls, for example. If the scientific community puts forward well-vetted evidence that organic foods do, in fact, offer greater nutritional value, the NuVal System is designed to be able to incorporate that information into the Scores."

My thoughts? Although this is an attempt to educate the consumer with more information about the safety of what is "actually" in the food they buy, this system does not address foods with MSG, artificial sweeteners, food colorings, and other added chemicals and preservatives. This might lead shoppers down a distracting path by excluding the food products with chemicals predominant in modern foods. Many consumers may choose to "think" that diet products (as an example) are fine because they were not evaluated.

On a positive note, maybe this system will enhance interest concerning food products on the grocery shelf. If people begin researching food quality more, they invariably will find the information about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, various preservatives, and MSG.

Well, you decide for yourself if this food rating system is precise enough to be marketed in your grocery store. At the very least, continue to read all of your labels!

Posted January 2012 | Permanent Link

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