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The National Consumers League has filed a formal complaint with the Food and Drug Administration about the NuVal nutritional scoring system used by grocery retailers in some 1,600 stores across the country.
The group takes issue with the system that “gives Doritos Tortilla Chips and Ghirardelli Caramel Turtle Chocolate Brownie Mix higher nutritional ratings than canned peaches or mandarin oranges,” the League said in a press release.
“The NuVal rating system is fatally flawed and should be discarded,” charged National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Its algorithmic formula – which is not transparent to consumers or the scientific community – results in snack chips, soft drinks and desserts being given as high or higher nutritional scores than some canned fruits and vegetables."
NuVal LLC General Manager Mike Nugent responded: “We strongly believe that the National Consumers League’s claims and assertions about NuVal are unfounded and misguided, and that our business will be unaffected by these claims.”
Dr. David Katz, NuVal's chief science officer, offered a rebuttal to the League's charges.
Describing the rating system as "confusing," Greenberg called for the FDA to set industry-wide standards. "Moreover, the FDA should not allow NuVal or any other flawed nutritional rating system to further confuse consumers who are trying to make healthy decisions for their families," she asserted.
The FDA wrote the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute in 2011 setting conditions for use of the trade associations’ “Facts up Front” labeling program. “FDA, however, has not taken any public action in regards to NuVal, nor has it published any standard criteria for nutritional rating systems, resulting in a ‘Wild West’ atmosphere that confuses consumers,” the League contends.
NCL questions what it calls “mind-boggling” NuVal scores, which claim to rank more nutritious products higher, such as:
- Tostitos Light Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips made with Olestra (28)
- Baked Lays Originals Potato Crisps (25)
- Ghirardelli Caramel Turtle Chocolate Brownie Mix (22)
- Raley’s Cut Green beans (22)
- Chug Milk Shake Vanilla (21)
- Doritos Tortilla Chips (20)
- Diet Coke (15)
- Edwards Singles Hot Fudge Brownie with Creamy Ice Cream (13)
- Cracker Jack caramel coated popcorn (12)
- Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies (10)
- Raley’s Diced Pears in Light Syrup (10)
- Dole Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup (7)
- S&W Yellow Cling Peach Chunks in Light Syrup (7)
“These misleading ratings in stores nationwide call out for a response from federal regulators,” Greenberg said. “We have to prevent systems like NuVal from spreading misleading nutritional information to consumers. If we don’t, we’re letting down the very people who need us most for nutritional advice: the parents, the seniors and the average consumers trying to get the most nutritional value for their dollar.”