Reading Food Labels Gets Easier
Food health rating programs aim to help grocery buyers make better choices.
Supermarket Health Rating Systems continued...
"The online option allows us to provide consumers with deeper levels of
functionality, additional information and explanation on food scoring, diet
recommendations, and how to use the scoring system for diabetes, cardiovascular
disease, and obesity," says Katz.
Another new front-of-pack nutrition labeling program is Smart Choices,
sponsored by the Keystone Organization, which represents a wide array of
industry, scientists, academicians, and health and research
organizations. Like the other programs, to qualify as a smart choice,
foods must meet specific nutrition criteria. A symbol will reflect foods
that qualify as healthy choices and will debut in grocery stores in
In 2006, the New England chain Hannaford Brothers became the first grocer to
launch a food scoring program. Their proprietary program, called "Guiding
Stars," was developed by a group of nutrition scientists. Hannaford plans
to license the nutrition navigation system to supermarket chains, vendors,
health care groups and anyone else interested in helping people make nutritious
"At Hannaford, we evaluate each food and beverage based on the
information from the nutrition facts panel and list of ingredients within a
100-calorie serving," says Caren Epstein, communications director for
Hannaford presents the results on a scale of 0-3 stars, with 3 being the
healthiest. Hannaford has scored more than 25,500 foods and beverages.
"Our customers love the program and it has helped them make better food
choices within certain categories and teach their children about good
nutrition," says Epstein.
In Harris Teeter's "yourwellness" program, color-coded wellness keys
are placed on foods that meet the FDA's criteria for certain label terms. The
markers distinguish foods that are "excellent" or "good"
sources of particular nutrients, as well as foods that are free of fat,
lactose, sodium, or sugar; low in sodium, fat, or calories; heart-healthy;
lean; organic; vegan; or contain zero trans fats.
Even markets that don't have formal rating systems usually have some way to
help consumers select healthier foods -- through newsletters, demonstrations,
and/or shelf markers.
Other Food Rating Programs
Since 1995, the American Heart Association (AHA) has been trying to make
heart-healthy grocery shopping easier with its heart check symbol. To qualify
for the AHA Food Certification Program, a single serving of the food must,
according to Food and Drug Administration criteria:
- Contain no more than 3 grams of total fat
- Contain no more than 1 gram of saturated fat
- Contain no more than 20 grams of cholesterol
- Contain no more than 480 milligrams of sodium
- Contain at least 10% or more of one of these naturally occurring nutrients:
protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, or iron.
About.com has an online Calorie Count Plus system that rates foods, on a
scale of A+ to F, according to a formula that takes into account both healthy
and not-so healthy components in the food, Hartley says. The food's nutrient
density (that is, the number of nutrients per calories) is also taken into
consideration. A registered dietitian makes the final rating determination by