Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Unfailing, ever reliable" nutrition rating system developed by prominent experts at Yale, Harvard, other institutions quietly dropped by Big Y supermarket chain because it's "out of date"


Via a March 2, 2015 item in HartfordBusiness.com:
In the mid-2000s, a (Griffin Hospital-based) team developed a nutrition scoring algorithm that aimed to improve upon existing nutrition labels displayed on products. In 2008, the hospital parent's for-profit subsidiary, GH Ventures, formed NuVal LLC with Illinois-based Topco Associates to market the system to supermarkets.

Today, NuVal ratings -- displayed on blue octagonal stickers -- can be found in the aisles of Big Y, Price Chopper and a number of other grocery chains.
A 2007 29-page Griffin Hospital report called the nutrition scoring algorithm, "An unfailing, ever reliable guide to better nutrition both within and across food categories."

Via Monday's Yale Daily News (my emphasis):
[New England supermarket chain] Big Y adopted NuVal, a service that assigns numerical scores to food products based on their nutritional value, six years ago as part of an effort to promote healthy eating habits. But last April the chain dropped NuVal because of concerns that its ratings algorithm was out of date.

...Claire D’Amour-Daley, chief communications officer for Big Y, told the News that the chain dropped NuVal because the algorithm is out of date and customers are increasingly able to make savvy nutritional decisions on their own.


Via the website of NuVal LLC of Quincy, Massachusetts, here are the dozen members of the Scientific Expert Panel -- including Walter Willett MD, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health's nutrition department -- who developed the algorithm:
Chair: Dr. David Katz, Yale University School of Medicine
Dr. Keith Ayoob, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dr. Leonard Epstein, University of Buffalo; inventor, Traffic Light Diet
Dr. David Jenkins, University of Toronto; inventor, Glycemic Index
Dr. Francine Kaufman, USC; Former President, American Diabetes Association
Dr. Robert Kushner, Northwestern University
Dr. Ronald Prior, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, USDA HNRC
Dr. Rebecca Reeves, Past President, American Dietetic Association
Dr. Barbara Rolls, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Sachiko St. Jeor, University of Nevada
Dr. John Seffrin, President & CEO, American Cancer Society
Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard University

From the same page, here's NuVal LLC's current Scientific Advisory Board:

Dr. David Katz, Ex Officio, Yale University School of Medicine
Dr. Keith Ayoob, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dr. Gail Frank, California State University Long Beach
Dr. Frank Hu, Harvard University, Harvard School of Public Health
Dr. David Jenkins, University of Toronto
Dr. Rebecca Reeves, University of Texas School of Public Health

Do they think the algorithm is "out of date"? And what's their reaction to Big Y dropping the program?

That story's outside of my ken,* but seems like a newsworthy follow-up for another reporter or blogger.

Incidentally, according to the Yale article, NuVal was dropped by Big Y in April.

Via this screenshot today of from NuVal LLC's website, the company claims Big Y is still a client:

* The Yale Daily News article (for which I was interviewed) was primarily a journalism ethics story, part of which I reported in May.