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Midwest supercenter pioneer Meijer, Inc. has rolled out the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System in all 185 of its locations in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer joins Price Chopper and Hy-Vee in adopting the NuVal system, in which all food products are assigned a score from 1 to 100 -- the higher the score, the higher the nutrition -- thus making it easy for consumers to compare the overall nutrition of the foods they buy, at a glance.
Initially, Meijer will feature NuVal scores on 8,000 products from 15 food categories, increasing the number of nutritionally ranked products during the next few months. To begin with, Meijer identified 15 NuVal-friendly categories, including fresh produce, frozen vegetables, cereal, cookies, crackers, eggs and egg products, fresh sandwich bread, milk, fresh seafood, fresh protein (beef, chicken, and pork), pasta, shortening/oil, salty snacks, canned vegetables, and juices.
"This may be our most important value-added initiative we offer our grocery shoppers," said Shari Steinbach, Meijer’s Healthy Living manager. "NuVal scoring provides our customers with the information they need to make the best nutritional decisions for their families. Our intention is to not say which products are better than others, but to give our shoppers a shortcut so they can confidently choose healthy foods."
Ralph Fischer, Meijer’s group VP/Foods, concurs. "This simple scoring system provides our customers with the information they need to make well-informed nutritional choices, one food at a time. There is so much confusion when it comes to nutrition information, and that's why we felt it was imperative to provide our shoppers with unbiased and simple information to help them make the most informed choices."
Billed as the most comprehensive consumer tool to determine the nutritional value of a product, NuVal -- a joint venture formed in 2008 by Topco Associates, LLC, and Griffin Hospital of Derby, Conn., a nonprofit community hospital and home to the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center -- takes into account more than 30 distinct factors and evaluates the dietary importance of each to determine an overall nutritional quality score. The Braintree, Mass.-based organization licenses the proprietary food-scoring system that is based on ONQI (Overall Nutrition Quality Index) science to food retailers across the country.
A sampling of scores reveals the wide disparity in the nutritional value of certain products within the same category. In the Seafood category, an Atlantic salmon fillet receives a score of 87, while Chinook salmon receives only a 56. In Produce, oranges receive a perfect score of 100, while iceberg lettuce scores 82. In the Salty Snacks category, the highest score received is a 40, and the lowest is a 1.
"Our goal was to create an algorithm for assessing the overall nutritional quality of foods that entirely avoids the 'good food/bad food' dichotomy and controversy," said NuVal president Nancy McDermott.
Scores are calculated through a formula that takes into account a product's numerators (e.g. the presence of fiber, vitamins, calcium, magnesium, etc.) and denominators (saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sugar and cholesterol) to arrive at an assigned score.