July 21, 2017

Food Scores: A new way to rate quality?

Washington, D.C.

A nonprofit—The Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched “Food Scores: Rate Your Plate,”  last week. The group intends to make it easier for consumers to look up their favourite grocery item and immediately see a health score, based on nutrition, ingredients and processing. The website and mobile app offer ratings on over 80,000 products based on a scale of one to 10—one (1) being most favourable, green to red, best to worst. Each score looks at three factors:

  • nutrition: including calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, sodium, protein, fiber and fruit, vegetable and nut content,
  • ingredients of concern: the likely presence of key contaminants, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics and health implications of certain food additives, and
  • level of food processing:  best estimate of the extent to which a particular food has been processed. Scoring factors include modification of individual ingredients from whole foods, number of artificial ingredients and other factors.

According to the scoring scheme, Cheerios for example, rates a four (4)—demonstrating lower levels of concern with respect to nutrition and ingredients, but moderate levels of processing concerns. By using the rating system it’s easy to see how foods stack up against each other.

Although the clarity and rigour of the rating system sets a new bar in determining food quality and although some shoppers may benefit from this information to make their food choices, we, at nufoods international are not convinced that assessing single foods gives a precise and clear picture of an individual’s nutritional status. In fact, it is only by assessing the diet as a whole over time that we can really get a true sense of the quality of person’s diet.

Many other apps such as those offered by Fooducate and Whole Foods provide similar information. One must remember however that quality information on individual foods—such as is found in various rating systems, is not sufficient to make a health determination. Although food is a critical component of health, it is not the only one component. Many lifestyle factors such as physical activity, stress, sleep, smoking, etc impact on health.

Before drawing conclusions about your health make sure you have a holistic view of all determining factors.

For more information on EWGs Food Scores, follow this link.