Does Anyone Read Nutritional Labels Anymore? (Or Understand Them?)

Staff Writer
Expert calls for nutritional guidance reform and creates scoring system for consumers

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

In theory, a “Nutritional Facts” label should effectively communicate nutritional value to consumers. Unfortunately though, food products’ labels often mislead and confuse shoppers, sharing statistics that, most of the time, go over people’s heads. While the onus is often put on the consumer to figure out what’s healthy, according to NuVal inventor David Katz: this shouldn’t be the case.

Developed by Katz, along with a team of nutritional and medical experts, NuVal is a scoring system designed to guide consumers through the nutritional maze that has become the modern supermarket. Foods are rated on a scale of 1-100: the higher the number, the better the nutrition.

How does it work, though? The long answer involves a complex algorithm called the Overall Nutritional Quality Index, briefly explained on the program’s website, or more fully explained in this 56-page reference manual.

But according to Katz, understanding NuVal’s nutritional algorithm shouldn’t be the average consumer’s problem — just like figuring out what foods are (actually) good for you shouldn’t be the average consumer’s problem.

“We rely on private-sector innovation for a lot of important jobs, and even many that put our safety on the line,” Katz says. “The private sector makes our cars and planes. We seem to be comfortable using these without scrutinizing patent applications.”

Over 100,000 NuVal scores are on display in 1,700 supermarkets across the nation. If the program expands even further, it might just become the way to thwart advertising schemes.

Keebler Townhouse Bistro Multi Grain Crackers sound pretty healthy. “multi-grain” is good for you, right? According to NuVal, they earn a 3.

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