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Giving Nu Value to What We Eat



Today, I am attending a Leaders Summit in Montreal hosted by the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI).

The Summit brings together a number of senior representatives of Canada’s food manufacturing and retailing leaders as well as researchers and decision makers from various provincial and federal governments.

Last night, at the opening dinner, I had the pleasure of listening to David Katz, Director and Co-Founder of the Yale Prevention Research Center, who talked about the The NuVal System for food labelling, designed to make it easier to identify and compare foods based on their nutritional valure.

The system was developed by an independent panel of nutrition and medical experts and rates the nutritional value of foods on a scale from 1 to 100. The higher the NuVal Score, the better the nutrition. It literally allows you to compare the nutritional value of apples and oranges.

In other words, NuVal is a GPS that directs us to healthier foods.

A number of food retailers in the US are now using the NuVal system and its users and fans are apparently growing.

For more information on how the NuVal system works and what it can do feel free to visit the NuVal website.

Wonder if and when we’ll see food with NuVal scores in Canadian supermarkets.

AMS
Montreal, Quebec

7 Comments

  1. Thrilled to hear that David Katz is still chatting up Canadians.

    While all front-of-package systems have issues, in my mind NuVal is far and away the best their is.

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  2. Any tool that can help ordinary people help their families is great news. I just hope the process of evaluation is fair and understandable.
    Thank you Dr. Sharma for sharing.
    Pierre for Thee Quest

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  3. I am happy to see that we may finally have another option as opposed to the disappointing Health Check program that requires payment from food corporations to be considered for listing as “healthy”. I find it strange that I’ve never seen a Health Check on an apple.

    However, after looking at the very limited product list it seems that the Nuval system has some work to do before it would really be useful tool. With only 100 foods evaluated, I hope they’re able to get more done so customers will be able to evaluate the nutritional quality of more foods.

    I’m also puzzled as to how a chicken breast ended up being rated as slightly less nutritious than a specific brand of tortilla chips.

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  4. The NuValue site doesn’t explain the criteria used. If they expect folks to value it, they need to explain it, not just assert the authority of their advisory board. Nutritional expertise doesn’t have a very good track record.

    It’s possible, though, to infer some of the criteria. Since 1% milk ranks higher than 2% milk, there’s obviously an anti-fat bias, for example. I submit that there’s clearly something wrong with a system that can rank a cookie higher than any meat. Perhaps that’s why they don’t explain their criteria.

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  5. I just checked out the nuval system and I don’t like it.

    First, the “Food Categories” are supermarket shelf categories, not nutritional categories.
    Nuval categories include “meat”, “vegs” – also there are the CATEGORIES of “salty snacks”, “cookies” and “soft drinks” etc

    You’re supposed to go to a store, and as you load up on your “salty snacks” category you check to see which one has higher nuval score. Same in the “cookie” category. Same in the “soft drinks” category.

    There’s nothing about overall nutrition. Test this out.. could you go to a store and load up with high nuval point food and end up with a bad diet – come out with 70 point chips,
    20 point soft drinks, 50 point cookies, 60 point cakes, and 60 point snacks. Hmm?

    NO FAIR saying “well, of course we expect people on their own to choose meat, vegs, and other nutritious types of food, we just allot points WITHIN supermarket shelf categories.” (Supermarket categories are based on payoffs for shelf space, not nutrition)

    I cook for 4 people usually, another 2 often.
    I need to plan for the nutritional needs of:

    teenage girl (artist, recreational dancer)
    teenage boy (athlete doing hours of hard training a day)
    husband (exercises moderately, must avoid glutin)
    me (obese all my life, finally getting my diet under control)
    grandmother, 91, diabetic, mostly sedentary
    grandfather 91, active for his age.
    (At this point I have no babies or little kids to consider!)

    This is an ordinary household, with nutrition needs varying for age, sex, activity level, weight control, and two common food concerns (diabetes and glutin intolerance).

    How can one number, within a bunch of categories based on supermarket shelves, plan the nutrition for all these people? This is absurd.

    Here’s a housewife’s food plan:
    The stove has 4 burners, one for protein, one for carbs, one for red vegs, one for green vegs.
    Then modify: put everything into one stew!; rice pasta for no glutin; make as salad for everybody except the old folks who can eat only cooked vegs; add mountains of extra food for ravenous athletic son; limit portions for myself; etc etc. Drink coffee, tea, and milk; juice for son.

    All those other categories – pop, chips, snacks – we eat only occasionally as party food – is it always a party down there in nuval land??

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  6. Re my family diet plan:
    I do use nutrition panels all the time.

    I don’t like the nuval system, but I certainly don’t want to imply that all labeling is bad. Do keep the Nutrition labels and the lists of ingredients on all prepared foods!

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  7. Anonymous writes: “also there are the CATEGORIES of “salty snacks”, “cookies” and “soft drinks” etc.” Indeed. I can understand why those categories are included. What I can’t understand is how any cookie could get a rating greater than maybe 5. Almost all cookies would get a 0. A few that have whole grains instead of refined grains, applesauce instead of sugar, olive oil as their shortening, and a few nuts might warrant a 5, meaning “least unhealthy” among a bad lot.

    Of course, such a system couldn’t be sold to the processed food industry, the members of which want to differentiate their products on the basis of health and who make health claims that seem absolute when they are merely relative. I don’t object to claiming that one cookie is the “least worst.” Assigning a middling score to food items that can barely be considered food is disreputable, IMO.

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