WASHINGTON—The National Consumer League (NCL) is asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the NuVal nutrition scoring system, which is used in 1,600 stores nationwide, on the basis it is inconsistent with FDA guidance statements and enforcement correspondence, federal nutrition programs and recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
In the letter sent to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg on May 10, NCL cites criticism from the IOM that the NuVal scoring system uses different universal adjustors that may lead to confusing scores across food categories. It said the current system often generates scores that may do more to confuse and mislead consumers than to help them make educated nutritional decisions. Secondly, NuVal scores are based on an algorithm that has not been publicly released, meaning it has not been subject to necessary and intense scrutiny from nutritional professionals.
“The NuVal rating system is fatally flawed and should be discarded," said National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Its algorithmic formula—which is not transparent to consumers or the scientific community—results in snack chips, soft drinks, and desserts being given as high or higher nutritional scores than some canned fruits and vegetables. NuVal’s so-called nutritional ratings are a travesty that confuse, rather than enlighten, consumers. We need the FDA to step in and set industrywide standards. Moreover, the FDA should not allow NuVal or any other flawed nutritional rating system to further confuse consumers who are trying to make healthy decisions for their families."
NCL also said FDA, not a private company, should be the one giving nutritional advice to consumers. “We urge FDA to promulgate a nutritional rating system that would clarify things for consumers and is in line with IOM recommendations. The stark shortcomings of NuVal underscore the need for FDA to promptly notify grocery store and supermarket chains, warning retailers against the use of propriety nutrition rating systems that are in conflict with FDA's guidance statement, enforcement letter, federal nutrition programs and recommendations of the IOM," the letter concluded.