National Consumers League

NCL welcomes nationwide removal of misleading nutritional scoring system from grocery shelves

November 9, 2017

Contact: Cindy Hoang (202) 207-2832, cindyh@nclnet.org   

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) has welcomed news that a supermarket-based nutritional scoring system of food products called NuVal, which at its peak was used in 1,600 grocery stores nationwide, has been discontinued. For the last five years, NCL has been a vocal critic of NuVal’s controversial ratings system. In a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012, NCL called NuVal “fatally flawed,” pointed out that it gave some junk foods higher nutritional ratings than canned fruit, and called for its investigation and removal from grocery stores.

NuVal scored food on a scale of 1-100, with printed labels appearing on shelves next to price labels in stores that used the system. NuVal claimed to help consumers compare products by simplifying their nutritional value; the higher the number, the “better the nutrition.”

“The NuVal rating system was fatally flawed, and its removal from grocery store shelves is a win for consumers,” said National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Its proprietary algorithmic formula – which was not made transparent to consumers or the scientific community – resulted in snack chips, soft drinks, and desserts being given as high or higher nutritional scores than some canned fruits and vegetables. We welcome the news that NuVal has been discontinued nationally.”

The consumer group criticized NuVal’s nutritional ratings as confusing—not helpful—to consumers trying to make healthy decisions for their families and called on the FDA to step in and set industry-wide standards to govern such systems so that they truly benefit nutrition-minded consumers. Other critics questioned conflicts of interest behind NuVal’s research and food manufacturers.

The Yale Daily News reported that, according to NuVal’s creator, Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center David Katz, “Hershey’s paid him more than $731,000 for research, and Quaker Oats had paid him more than $633,000. He has also received funds from Kind Bar and Chobani.”

Last fall, NCL noted that several regional grocery store chains, including Tops Market, based in Williamsville, NY, California-based Raley's, and Massachusetts-based Big Y, had also begun phasing out the system.

###

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.