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The algorithm powering “Guiding Stars,” the pioneering storewide nutrition guidance program launched by Hannaford Supermarkets, has been published online in the November/December 2011 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion. Showcasing the research and development of the algorithm, as well as the importance of transparency in food rating programs, the publication allows the public to fully understand the scientific underpinnings of the system.
Guiding Stars recently received a patent for its nutrition rating algorithm, which is grounded in evidence-based science and the current dietary guidelines and recommendations of such national and international health organizations as the FDA and USDA. The program credits all foods according to the presence of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and whole grains, and debits for the presence of trans fat, saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugars and added sodium. Food items are then awarded zero, one, two or three stars, with three stars denoting the best nutritional value.
“Guiding Stars is a pioneer in nutrition guidance, and with the proliferation of on-package and on-shelf food labeling programs, we want to be transparent about the algorithm that underlies this system,” noted Leslie Fischer of the University of North Carolina, a member of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel. “Even a well-informed consumer can have a difficult time identifying nutritious foods and the publication of the algorithm makes the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program more transparent and accessible to the public.”
“By being fully transparent, we allow the nutrition community and consumers alike to have access to the science behind our program,” added Betts FitzGerald, managing director of Scarborough, Maine-based Guiding Stars. “As a result of the star ratings, retailers and manufacturers have begun to take steps to reformulate their foods, and we hope that the impact of publishing our algorithm will continue to lead to better ingredient selection, with the ultimate goal of promoting optimal health. The Guiding Stars system was created to simplify the shopping experience and help today’s busy consumer make informed choices. Our program is working. We are achieving our goal of helping consumers to take the necessary steps to take control of their health by selecting more nutritious foods.”
Guiding Stars has rolled out to more than 1,600 supermarkets, including Food Lion, Hannaford, Bloom and Sweetbay (all Delhaize Group banners), as well as Homeland, Kings Super Market and Marsh Supermarkets. The system has also expanded into public schools, colleges and hospitals, and is featured on the Shopper mobile iPhone application.