Topco Associates (www.topco.com), a cooperative of thousands of grocery stores across the country, says it will introduce a new food-scoring system in its stores that could change the way consumers evaluate their food purchasing decisions. Called the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI), the system uses a simple numeric score from 1 to 100 to rate any individual food item or recipe, enabling consumers to make choices based on an unbiased assessment of a food's nutritional value aross food categories. The scoring system was created by David Katz, M.D., head of Yale University's Griffin Hospital Prevention Research Center, and a group of leading nutritionists.
A number of food marketers have introduced their own version of food labeling or rating systems, but Topco says the ONQI was developed by leading health and nutritional experts. It allows for a meaningful nutritional comparison of foods to allow shoppers to actually look at two brands of crackers and determine at a glance which one offers the most nutritional value. This helps eliminate confusion often associated with product nutritional labels and marketing claims. The algorithm used to assign the food score incorporates 30 nutrient factors so that the ONQI can give a much fuller assessment of a food's true nutritional value and its relation to today's public health needs.
The ONQI has applications for food manufacturers, schools and restaurants, an important factor, especially as discussions continue about moving toward a universal guidance system for consumers. Package labels would include a percentage rating on a 100-point per-serving basis, along with the fat content and other nutritional information. The ONQI is expected to be made available through thousands of retail grocery stores beginning in the second half of 2008.
Says Dr. Katz: “Epidemics of obesity and diabetes suggest the toll of poor dietary choices on the public health. Dramatic improvements in health are possible with changes in diet, and the way to a better diet is through one informed choice at a time. The ONQI provides a powerful tool—perhaps the most powerful tool—designed for that very job. The science behind the ONQI is very sophisticated, yet the tool is simple to use.”
By joining forces, Topco Associates and Griffin Hospital will be able to introduce the ONQI with a national footprint in 2008 through grocery stores across the nation. The ONQI will also be available to consumers through food manufacturers, restaurants and online.