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SKOKIE, Ill. -- Topco Associates LLC here said it will unveil a new consumer food scoring system hitting stores in mid-2008, that will equip consumers to make at-a-glance food comparisons on the basis of overall nutritional quality.
The system, called the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI), will score food on a scale of 1 to 100, with healthier foods getting higher scores. Topco said the system was developed by a group of top nutrition scientists from throughout North America.
Supermarket operators in the Topco cooperative, including IGA, Hy-Vee, will use the system on a voluntary basis, Topco said. Initially, the scores will appear on private-label products beginning in the second half of 2008, but the company will also make the scores available to manufacturers who want to use them on their packaging.
Topco's chairman, Ric Jurgens, who is also chairman, president, and c.e.o. of Hy-Vee, Inc. based in W. Des Moines, Iowa, said, "We intend to bring the ONQI to market in a way that helps consumers make healthy choices about food."
Steve Laurer, president/c.e.o., Topco Associates, said the system, two years in the making, is an "important nutritional tool."
Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University/Griffin Hospital Prevention Research Center and lead scientist on the ONQI project, agreed. "A better diet is through one informed choice at a time," said Katz. "The ONQI provides a powerful tool--perhaps the most powerful tool--designed for that very job. The science behind the ONQI is very sophisticated, yet the tool is simple to use."
Katz led a panel of 12 top health and nutrition experts to develop a science-based system, shielded from any commercial influence, with a goal of developing the best possible evidence-based scoring system for overall nutritional quality.
Based on complex algorithm that incorporates some 30 nutrient factors, Katz said the program's universality allows it to score products across all food and beverage categories and be applied to any food, meal or diet.
Scientists will present a review of the science, and the practical applications of the ONQI project at the Yale Griffin Prevention Research Center Scientific Conference on Friday, Nov. 30.